Class Councils plan Fight the Stigma Week

Organizers hope to raise awareness of mental health resources


Fight the Stigma Week  is dedicated to fighting stigmas around mental health and wellness.

Zoe Toone | Cavalier Daily

Members from all four University Class Councils are partnering with several mental health awareness organizations to host Fight the Stigma Week 2017, which is dedicated to fighting the stigma around mental health and wellness.

The five-day event started on Monday and features discussions about mental health resources in Charlottesville and activities that foster well-being like yoga, keynote speakers and dialogues.

This event was intentionally scheduled to fall during a stressful academic period, arriving after spring break, but before finals period, said Taylor Getswick, a fourth-year College student and co-chair of the Fight the Stigma committee.

Getswick described the week in an interview with The Cavalier Daily as an effort “to increase [students’] awareness of their own mental wellbeing, and give them resources that they can take to help improve it if they aren’t happy with where they’re at.”

Activities throughout the week include free mental health screenings and a meditative art tour at the Fralin. There will also be dialogues about the stigma surrounding mental health in the African-American community, as well as how to help survivors of sexual assault and violence and a TEDxUVA talk with students and faculty.

A Counseling and Psychological Services coordinator will speak about self-care and stress relief Thursday, and the week will draw to a close on Friday with a finale event, which includes balloon dart painting and journaling.

Getswick said he thinks one of the biggest stigmas of mental health is that it just isn’t talked about.

“Mental illness in particular is something that is very invisible,” Getswick said. “You don’t see the anxiety of a panic attack, of people struggling with anxiety disorders. It’s pretty much an invisible thing, so we’re trying to bring some visibility to it.”

Getswick said he is particularly excited about the TEDx event scheduled for Wednesday.

“One event in particular that I think will do a good job this year is the TEDx [and] Sustained Dialogue event, which is focused entirely on talking about how we interact with [mental illness] on Grounds,” Getswick said. “So I think first and foremost, it’s about increasing visibility — also understanding that it’s very much a unique experience for everybody, but it’s not something that people go through alone.”

Emily Sun, a third-year Nursing student and a member of Third-Year Council, is on the Fight the Stigma committee and said fighting the stigma is important to her as a Nursing student.

“Learning different ways to get help, to take care of not only your physical body but also your psychological and mental health, is something that definitely needs to be emphasized,” Sun said.

Fight the Stigma Week was primarily organized by an ad-hoc committee comprised of members from all four Class Councils. Getswick said the committee was modeled after the Lighting of the Lawn committee as an inter-council effort.

“We are trying to increase who we could market to, and by involving all members of Council, we were able to do that,” Getswick said.

This week is the third annual iteration of Fight the Stigma Week. The first iteration was hosted in spring 2015 by the Class of 2017 Second-Year Council. The second in spring 2016 included more co-sponsorships with outside organizations. This third iteration is unique because of the inter-council committee planning it.

The week’s events are funded by the Parents Committee and the Student Initiative Fund. Getswick said there is an estimated budget of $6,500 for the week’s events. 

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