Students had an opportunity to share their thoughts during Mental Health Week, a week of events organized by the Ambassadors club on campus. Taking place March 9 through 13, a variety of activities happened during lunch time all with a goal of ending the stigma surrounding mental health.
The activities started on Monday with a “Stop the Stigma” booth, where people could sign a poster to pledge to stop the negative misconceptions around mental health. On Tuesday there was an iceberg mural where people could write on the poster what people assume about them on the surface of the iceberg and underneath, write what they wished more people would know. Wednesday consisted of a mental health panel where students were able to listen to professionals answering questions about their personal experiences with mental health and ways to open up about it. On Thursday, there was a wellness fair which consisted of around eight clubs hosting wellness activities unique to their club and on Friday, Spartan PAUSE was held during lunch.
Junior Jaycie Yeung was one of the main organizers of the week along with senior Emma Cahill. In late September, the Ambassadors club began to plan the events for Mental Health Week, focusing on the theme of how to help a friend.
Yeung joined the Ambassadors club last year and explained how her passion for mental health originated from hearing negative stigmas towards mental health around campus.
“I was mad that so many people joke about being depressed or they joke about mental health illnesses,” Yeung said.
These stigmas and the lack of knowledge surrounding mental health resources inspired the creation of Mental Health Week last year.
One event that was added to the week this year was the Out of the Darkness walk, which has currently been postponed until further notice out of caution due to COVID-19.
Junior Trisha Gongalore aided in planning this activity and was the designated emcee of the night as she would have led participants through the walk while encouraging connections and community bonding. Through the event, she hoped to raise awareness about suicide and create a safe space for people to share their thoughts and experiences.
“From what I’ve heard, most every suicide is preventable,” Gongalore said. “I think that is such a hugely important thing that we need to come to realize as a community, that we can prevent these things if we just put in the effort and have those conversations and trust in the people around us.”
Other activities such as the club wellness fair were started last year and carried through to this year. Senior Emaad Tareen and junior Raziel Villavicencio Gomez were two Ambassador members that helped organize this event. They both share a passion for mental health and said they hope that the wellness messages that numerous clubs portrayed will reduce mental health stigmas.
“Mental health shouldn’t be stigmatized but rather be normalized,” Villavicencio Gomez said. “…we shouldn’t judge them as people with mental illnesses, we should just see them as normal people.”
Tareen supported this message and also emphasized the importance of the mental health panel, which gave students support regarding how to talk to their parents and guardians about any mental health troubles that they may be experiencing.
“A lot of students on the outside may be very happy and you may think that nothing’s wrong with them, but you never know what could happen inside and that they may be battling a lot of demons in their personal life,” Tareen said.
With the Ambassadors club’s goals including promoting diversity, inclusion, and wellness on campus, Gongalore said she feels that mental health is an essential element for them to focus on. After the week’s mental health activities have come to a close, she said she hopes that they have left a positive impact on the school.
“My main goal is to make sure that everyone on this campus feels that they have at least one person they can talk to whenever they’re dealing with these very, very serious mental concerns. Even if it’s not so serious, it’s important,” Gongalore said. “Just that one conversation can make such a huge difference.”