October 12, 2016

Mental Health Awareness Week Aims to Combat Stigma

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The second annual Mental Health Awareness Week will begin this Friday with a variety of events aiming to reduce stigma, promote education about mental health issues and showcase resources available on campus.

“The primary goal of Mental Health Awareness Week is to apprise all students of the resources available to them,” said Matthew Indimine ’18, Student Assembly executive vice president and one of the organizers of the event.

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is “#StompOutStigma,” in hopes that it will urge students to utilize resources, seek help and be willing to openly discuss mental health, both among themselves and with trained professionals, according to Janet Shortall, associate dean of students and director of EARS.

According to Shortall, not only will this week serve as a way to present the diverse resources available on campus, but it can also function as a reminder that everyone should take time to assess his or her quality of mental health.

The week will begin with Spa Night on Friday at Willard Straight Hall and feature a variety of activities for students, from planting lucky bamboo to receiving henna tattoos. According to Shortall, Spa Night is a program intentionally designed “to start the week in a way that everybody could benefit from, to give people pause to assess where their stress levels are.”

Another highlight of the week will take place in the Arts Quad next Wendesday, called Lift Your Spirits! — a program returning from last year — which aims to help students get to know the “many different communities and organizations on campus that address mental health,” Indimine said. It will feature over 20 student organizations that will be available to promote the importance of mental health in the Cornell community.

Casey Carr, associate dean of students and advisor of Cornell Minds Matter, also spoke of the Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest that will take place on Saturday. This particular event is co-sponsored by the Sophie Fund, which was established earlier this year to honor Sophie MacLeod, a Cornell student who died by suicide. The Sophie Fund aims to raise awareness and promote mental health initiatives both at Cornell and in the surrounding Ithaca community.

Carr noted that it is estimated that a quarter of the general population has some sort of mental illness and said she hopes Mental Health Awareness Week will serve as a way for people “to start the conversation [about mental well-being and] to take it out of the dark.”

While there are certain events that are aimed at specific groups of students such as “Mind, Body and Sport” — which is geared towards helping athletes find a mental health balance — Indimine emphasized that the events that will take place this week “truly aim to target all students, not just those who are ‘hyper involved’“ in community events.

The first Mental Health Awareness Week took place last year, after the Student Assembly passed a resolution addressing the need to promoting mental health awareness, producing noticeable results in the student body. Since last spring, “there has been a 20 percent increase in students accessing EARS counseling service,” Shortall said, which may be attributable to a variety of factors, one of which is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental Health Awareness Week is part of an ongoing campaign to change the culture of mental health on campus, whether through raising awareness, eliminating stigma, or providing assistance.