This year, Goucher’s Mental Health Awareness Week ran from Monday, October 6, to Friday, October 10. Events included a week-long mental health awareness film festival as well as two days of suicide prevention tabling. Health Center intern Ashley Worthington coordinated the events. Along with organizing campus-wide events, Worthington also helps to advise the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC).
Worthington’s main goals for the week included “getting information out there.” This included giving students suffering with mental illness more information regarding on-campus resources and support options, as well as educating the general public about this major health issue.
Worthington and other students oversaw the Suicide Prevention tablings. Many of the student volunteers were either members of SHAC or Peer Facilitators. Those who volunteered to table were excited to spread awareness, and feedback from students was positive despite some reservations about discussing such a heavy topic at first.
Sarah Eckhart, a Peer Listener, said, “I think that with any event you just need to grab the people in, but once they do they’re very excited and enthusiastic about these types of things.”
Yael Lazarus, a member of SHAC, said that misconceptions of mental disorders cultivate fear. While Sarah said that discussion is important because it fosters an environment where supportive networks can bloom. She added, “There has been starting to be some panels on…masculinity or race or sexuality, but I would like to see some discussions start about mental health and getting more people involved in that.”
The general consensus among student advocates of mental health awareness is that it needs to be normalized. Worthington said, “It’s normal. You have a cold; you treat it. You have depression; you should treat it. “
“Most of the stigmas that come with mental illness are something that we need to keep fighting,” Eckhart said. Lazurus agreed, adding, “mental illness is not a bad thing…even though you can’t see it, it’s something that people struggle with…and I think that just through education that’s the best way for people to learn more about it…”
Worthington hopes that informational health campaigns will open the door to interest in the other services provided by the health center. “I wish that people knew just all of the things that we offer…it’s not just a doctor’s office and not just counseling, but we have…light therapy boxes, and all kinds of health information. You can just come in and grab a brochure, or condoms or dental dams…it’s all there,” she said.
Students in need of support have a variety of options. They can call Peer Listeners from 7pm-2am, visit the Health and Counseling Center, or speak with the chaplain. The Health Center has information on support services and general mental health concerns, SHAC meets Monday evenings at 9pm.