October quickly came and went, taking with it the spirit of Halloween and stress-inducing prelims. One prelim after the next, I was constantly sucked into a whirlpool of tasks and deadlines. During this very busy time of the year, a holiday came and went, and reflecting on the past couple of weeks of the speedy month, I realized another event had slipped my mind.
As I was leaving Mann Library one morning, I noticed a giant tri-fold wall in the corner near the entrance, dotted with small, hand-written notes promoting strength and speaking up. In big letters at the top, the board presented “National Domestic Violence Month” to its passing audience. We see these exhibitions, but our eyes are shrouded by events in our lives that directly affect us in the present and near future moments.
October also represents National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as Mental Health Awareness Week. These tremendous global issues fight against stigma and strive to educate and inspire the nation every October of every year. However, awareness of these events on campus this past month hasn’t been particularly prevalent in the first place nor emphasized.
This month of awareness has personal meaning to such an unbelievably large amount of individuals in the global population. On average, nearly 20 people in the United States experience domestic violence by an intimate partner per minute, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In the United States, every year “more than 240,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease”, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And as reported by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), “one in four young adults between the ages 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness.” These statistics are truly horrific and monstrous, really blending in with the Halloween spirit. But on a more serious note, each one of these numbers represents a life just like our own, and they very much reflect the naked truth of the horrid reality we live in.
Spreading awareness has a real impact. According to a blog post on the Break the Cycle website, the overall rate of domestic violence dropped nearly two-thirds as voices were being heard and state laws were being put into place. Action starts with awareness. If we’re aware of the symptoms and warnings, then we can look after ourselves and for one another. While raising awareness may start with strands of colorful ribbons and safety pins, a positive outcome makes every inch of ribbon that much more worth it.
At Cornell, we have access to resources that allow us to be flexible in our efforts to get involved with our own community. However, we aren’t sufficiently using these resources to effectively convey and project such immensely relevant topics. I appreciate the tabling events and giant poster boards trying to get the message across, attracting hungry students with colorful cupcakes, but if we had utilized our online media platform like the way famous Denice Cassaro informs the entire Cornell population about upcoming events, then maybe more students could have known a little more about domestic violence, breast cancer and mental health than they did before.
The month of October has been a hectic month for many, so understandably, it’s been a rough period of time of constant hustle and bustle and academic rigor. However, it takes only a very small amount of time to learn about a relevant and pressing real-world issue. Through on-campus events or utilizing the mass database of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to facilitate a stronger connection with the larger world that engulfs the tiny bubbles we tend to linger in.
The choices we make will be reflected in the fate of our fundamental society, whether it be through politics, the environment, or social and health detriments. We have the golden opportunity to change the future by changing its dark path right now in the present with our own voices and efforts.
October may have passed and the walking bananas are gone, but that doesn’t mean everything just ends right there. Domestic violence is still a major issue affecting millions all around us, the prevalence of breast cancer is still 200,000 too high, and mental health is becoming a startlingly growing concern, especially on college campuses. These issues are still going to be issues unless we do something.
Spreading information is easier now than ever with social media and smartphones. Social media is now a more than integral part of our daily lives; we look at our smartphones every day and rely on it to supply us with humorous, social, political and educational information. We have the perfect awareness-spreading vector right in the palms of our hands, or rather the pockets of our jackets. One simple post with one simple caption is all it takes. The fate of the world is literally in our hands.
Alexia Kim is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. Who, What, Where, Why? runs every other Friday this semester. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.