Last week Manhattan College’s Psychology Club hosted Mental Health Awareness Week. There were activities held from Tuesday to Friday that brought attention to different mental illnesses such as depression, eating disorders and personality disorders.
The club says that the purpose of the week-long awareness event is to get rid of the negative stigma that typically surrounds mental health.
Each event was geared towards different mental illnesses and students were encouraged to pick up packets with information about the illness and how to seek help for themselves or a loved one.
“There is a tendency to brush off conversations about mental health, particularly if you do not know anyone that you think is struggling. However, you may know someone who needs support even if it is not obvious,” said Aileen Hickey, member of the Psychology Club.
The events were meant to erase the prejudice against those with the illness and show that it is more common than many people think to have these illnesses, but there is help available for anyone.
In addition to the events and packets, the club hung up flyers around the campus with facts about mental health and how common it is to struggle with a mental illness.
On Wednesday, the club streamed a TED Talk about mental health and students were encouraged to stop by and listen in on the talk to gain more insight. Psychology Club members were available to talk about the different illnesses and how Mental Health Awareness Week came to be. Many members agree that it was time to create an open conversation about the illnesses and change their preconceived notions about people with the illnesses.
Dr. Terence Hannigan, director of the Counseling Center, is especially interested in the awareness week. He said he is glad students are able to feel more comfortable sharing concerns and discussing these issues. However, he wants this awareness to not just be something the campus talks about once a year.
“I think it sends a message that we can talk about mental health issues as a community. These activities normalize the fact that some of us struggle with anxiety, family issues and/or depression. It takes these personal concerns out of the shadows and opens minds about mental health concerns,” said Hannigan.
With finals week fact approaching, Hannigan also hopes students seek out activities that aren’t stressful during such an intense time of the school year. He most importantly wants students to know they can go to the Counseling Center.
“I hope [the students] feel they can come to the Counseling Center when they have personal concerns, rather than thinking they will be labeled or they should deal with personal concerns without talking to others,” said Hannigan.
The week ended with an open mic night on the Quad, where students were encouraged to sign a poster saying they will help end the negative stigma against mental illness.
Students were also able to pick up semicolon temporary tattoos as part of the national campaign, “Project Semicolon”, which is a symbolic way of deciding to prevail against mental illnesses.
Students enjoyed pizza and fellowship as classmates read poetry and sang for those who stopped to check out the event and people who were passing by. Many were drawn in by the event, stopping to check what was going on which in turn, allowed the Psychology Club to get the word out to more people.
“The bottom line is that I want people to take it seriously, because it is a serious topic. Each and every one of us have mental health, even if it is in varying conditions. It’s important that we can properly care for our own mental health as well as that of our friends,” said Hickey.