During the week of Jan. 22 to the 26, there were seven different lectures given in the Baird Library. Each one was about an issue relating to mental health. Each of these lectures were given by a different member of the CCAS or professor of Eastern University. Dr. Cheryl Sparks spoke on anxiety, Dr. Lisa Hemlick addressed depression and how to determine if one is depressed or just sad, Dr. Sharon Thompson spoke on the importance of having healthy friendship boundaries, Taja Peterkin-Mclean spoke on the effects of colorism on mental health, Amanda Mayock addressed mindfulness and breathing techniques, Dr. Landi Turner spoke about eating disorders and Dr. Jo Saba addressed mental health and its effect on dating relationships.
This week of enlightenment and mindfulness was hosted by the office of student development in partnership with the cushing center for counseling and academic support (CCAS), the UGRD psych, the Grad Couns Psych department and the department of marriage and family. The primary organizers of this event were the members from Act 101. Lexie Dumbar, an Act 101 counselor, says that members of Act 101 decided they wanted to have a mental health awareness week. They pooled their resources together, reached out to the CCAS, and then asked themselves what they wanted to talk about. “We knew we wanted to talk about relationships,” says Dumbar. “We also wanted to talk about people of color and mental health and anxiety.”
During mental health awareness week, the CCAS had a table outside of the dining commons where they raised awareness for their own counseling programs. Two programs the CCAS endorsed in particular were about how to deal with having a family member who has mental health struggles and a support group for students dealing with the aftershock of returning from a semester abroad. The CCAS also handed out candy and packs of tissues with labels on them to raise awareness for the department. The labels also featured the clever tagline, “Got issues? We’ve got tissues!”
Seeing how much effort and work was put into this week, it can make one wonder why our school should even have a mental health awareness week. What was the need for a mental health awareness week? The simple answer is that it is because most people are not aware of it. Most people do not realize how much issues of mental health affect themselves, loved ones, roommates and family members.
Most awareness events Eastern University plans and carries out address issues or differences that are physically noticeable or intrinsically apart of a person’s beliefs, such as our school’s way of raising awareness for common history between Caucasian and African Americans, or open mindfulness without prejudice for the differences of opinions and beliefs between those a part of the LGBTQ community and those who are not. Raising awareness for mental health is not something as simple as every professor stating what all people with mental health believe, and how students without mental health deficiencies will be able to better relate to those with mental health issues. The truth is, every single case of mental health disorder; every single person with a mental health disorder is uniquely and infinitely different.
Those with mental health issues do not want to be seen as something less than who they are; similar to how every human being thinks. As Taja Peterkin-Mclean stated about her life and mental health, when she was growing up she got “tired of looking in the mirror everyday and asking [herself] what’s wrong with her.” She felt like she had to be a better version of herself, because she believed “being [herself] wasn’t good enough.” No one with a mental health issue, or anyone on Earth for that matter, wants to feel like they have to be more than themselves, because someone else is the ideal. Everyone wants to be treated with respect and, as Temple Grandin observes, we want to be seen as “different but not less.”