Mental Health Awareness Week hopes to lessen social stigma
While many associate college with the best years of our lives, medically speaking this is not always the case. “Mental illness typically strikes young people in their most productive years, 16-25,” Ai Phuong Tong ’14, a current member of Student Health on Campus (SHOC) said.
That age demographic spans the entire length of a college career for almost all students at the College. Many students on campus may experience, have experienced or will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. To combat this often-silenced condition, two student groups on campus are taking action.
Next week—April 15 to April 21—SHOC and Active Minds will host Mental Health Awareness Week on the Hill. The featured event of the week will be the Mental Health Narratives on Tuesday, April 17 in Cotter Union. This year’s Mental Health Narratives will feature Colby students’ stories of their struggles with mental health issues. Although students who contribute a story can read their own statement, they also have the option to remain anonymous. It is asked that all names or other identifying information be excluded from the stories, which will be read aloud to the audience.
Abigail Meyers ’11, a former member of SHOC, started the Mental Health Narratives in 2011. The tradition has been carried on into the current school year.
“The event was created to help students become aware of mental health issues on campus and to know that they are not alone,” Tong, a key planner in this year’s event, said. She went on to explain that she hopes “to help make students feel comfortable to seek help, inform them of where to find someone who can listen and advise and encourage them to start talking about their struggles.”
It is SHOC’s and Active Minds’ goal that students on the Hill begin talking about their struggles and that we learn from our peers and their experiences. At the narratives we hope to hear of stories detailing, as Tong says, “success after seeking help and consequences from not seeking help.”
Sydney Hammond ’14, a member of SHOC, spoke of the positive impact of the Mental Health Narratives. “As someone who has struggled with mental illness in the past, I think it is very valuable to hear that you are not alone—whether these stories talk of personal pain or personal triumph, that is what this is all about,” she said.
Both groups encourage all Colby students to submit their personal stories to the 2012 Mental Health Narratives.
The more people that attend this event, the more Colby students can respond and relate to one another’s struggles. “It truly is an event that can make a huge difference in how people feel about themselves and how we all treat one another,” Tong said.
Along with the Mental Health Narratives, Mental Health Awareness Week will also feature a first-year wellness seminar on Thursday, April 12. Kay Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind and who is learning to live with bipolar disorder, will speak on bipolar disorder and promote mental health awareness and speak against the stigma of mental illness. The deadline to submit stories is Friday, April 13. E-mails with questions or concerns should be addressed to email@example.com.