Small wreaths on easels with a small bowl of green ribbon were placed at Student Union entrances to honor World Mental Health Day on Wednesday. In the center of the wreath was a piece of paper with two statistics about mental health: One in five people in the United States have a diagnosable mental health issue at any point in time and one in four people ages 18 to 24 have a diagnosable mental health illness.
The activity was just one of many during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which is hosted by Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Student Services Committee, Counseling and Mental Health Services, National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and Active Minds.
The wreaths were made so that those passing by could take a strip of ribbon from the bowl and tie it to the wreath as a show of support for others struggling with mental health.
According to USG Student Services Chairman Derek Pan, a fifth-semester molecular and cellular biology major, he got the idea for the wreaths from the wreaths that were in the Student Union to commemorate Sept. 11. This is where he saw the importance of the small act of tying a ribbon.
Even though simply tying a ribbon is a small act, the wreath and things like it keep students talking and thinking about mental health which helps fight mental health stigmas and stereotypes.
“There is definitely a culture of silence around mental health,” Pan said. “So the more visible it is through these wreaths or the tables throughout the week, the better it is when people start talking about it; it’s in the forefront of their minds, they’re thinking about it and it will definitely increase self-help behaviors among students because they realize it’s okay to talk about it and it’s okay to get help and that’s the whole point of this whole week.”
But Pan has noticed that this culture of stigmatization and of silence is improving as people talk more and more about mental health. In addition to this being the first Mental Health Awareness Week, Pan has also noticed an increase in mental health events and student involvement through organizations like NAMI and Active Minds.
The USG student services committee has also formed a mental health and wellness subcommittee in order to put an emphasis on mental, physical, social and sexual health, according to Pan.
This subcommittee hosts mental health first aid certification courses for students to offer peer support and provide students with the skills to help someone in need, according to Pan.
The committee is also looking to spur change at the state level by planning to lobby state politicians and work with external affairs committee to mandate some sort of mental health and wellness module.
“(The module) hopefully would educate students on common mental health issues that they face in college because it is very prevalent and (students) do have very unique things that we face,” Pan said.
Pan highlighted that students often struggle with specific issues such as substance abuse, homesickness (particularly) among freshman, loneliness and relationship issues.
“We struggle with a lot of mental health issues as students and I think it’s important to educate students on what they may face, point to coping mechanisms, as well as point to resources on campus that are offered if they do need assistance,” Pan said.
Pan stressed that an educational module or course is important because it builds a “culture of self-help.”
“The more aware you are about something, the less you’re afraid to talk about it, the less you’re afraid to approach it and also the more likely you are able to be like, ‘Hey, I may have some issues and maybe I should get help,’” Pan said.
Alexis Taylor is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.