Students stopped by South Lawn over the course of three hours Thursday afternoon to participate in a “Mental Health on the Lawn” event. Hosted by Madison House’s Help Line, If You’re Reading This and National Alliance on Mental Illness on Grounds — three student organizations dedicated to providing students with the resources and help they need for a wide variety of situations relating to mental health and mental illness — the event focused on promoting a healthy and transparent mental health culture on Grounds.
The event was the first of its kind and partially served to fill the gap left by this spring’s lack of a “Fight the Stigma Week” — a week-long mental health advocacy and outreach period organized by Class Councils that usually falls towards the end of the academic year — according to Wendy Wang, a second-year Commerce student and the head of NAMI on Grounds.
Wang said that the three organizations wanted to provide students with a stress reliever before classes end and final exams start.
“It’s near the finals week season, and everybody knows how that goes, so we just wanted to come out and provide an opportunity for people to be writing stuff out,” Wang said.
Kelly Isbell, a second-year College student and Help Line volunteer, said the partnership between organizations came naturally, as all three have similar missions and goals.
“We decided to partner up with If You’re Reading This and NAMI because we all have a focus on talking about how you feel and an awareness for mental health,” Isbell said.
Isbell said the event was planned with an end goal of having “a day where we can all just have people talk about what makes them happy, what makes them feel good and just like how they’re feeling, because it’s important to talk about these things.”
Each organization had a table with different activities specifically designed both to help students take a break from a busy school day and give them space to share how they were doing physically and mentally if they needed it. These ranged from an encouragement wall to a table where students could anonymously write down how they were feeling on Post-It Notes and place them on a board. Giveaways were also offered and ranged from stickers and wristbands to brightly colored origami cranes.
All three groups have a variety of outreach programs that run year-round. In addition to operating a confidential, anonymous 24/7 phone call line, Help Line also passes out flyers and runs the semi-annual “Bodo’s and Blue Books” event where volunteers hand out free bagels and testing materials, in addition to resources and information about the program. NAMI on Grounds hosts support groups and outreach events similar to Tuesday’s tabling event and If You’re Reading This operates a website where students from across Grounds can share their life stories as a way of encouraging others and breaking apart stigmas surrounding mental health and other related challenges.
Isbell said that students were consistently visiting the table throughout the duration of the event and that participation had been strong.
“A lot of people are very willing to talk about how they’re feeling, which is a really good thing,” Isbell said.