This past week, beginning Monday, Oct. 8, the Greek Senate and the Northeast Greek Leadership Association (NGLA) hosted Mental Health Awareness Week. The purpose of these events was to raise awareness, erase the stigma surrounding mental health and support those who are suffering.
This past Monday, the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week, Oct. 8, focused on the body. Greek Senate kicked off the week with a presentation on positive body image and healthy living, taking place in the Greek Lounge in the Miron Student Center (MSC). Greek Senate President Victor Benlice and Vice President of Programming Gabriella Lapointe educated participants on body image, the perception that a person has of themselves and the feelings that result from that perception.
“Everyone has insecurities. Everyone has these things that they doubt about themselves on a day to day basis, and it’s all about eliminating those insecurities and seeing yourself in a better light," Benlice told the audience, highlighting the overall message of the event.
Benlice and Lapointe went into detail on the four aspects of body image, which are the following:
- perceptual - how one sees their body and views their physical self
- effective - how one feels about their body
- cognitive - how one thinks about their body
- behavioral - the way one behaves as a result of those three previous aspects
They emphasized that everyone should strive for a positive body image and do so by living a healthy lifestyle. Once one becomes confident in themselves, they will be much more happier and live a more successful life.
Lapointe said, “I’m hoping that students just understand what mental health is and they become more comfortable talking about mental health...”
The Greek Senate is very passionate about self-love and confidence.
Benlice said, “You need to reaffirm to yourself that you are enough. You are great. You will not be shaken. You will stand strong. You are worthy. You work very hard. You should definitely appreciate yourself and all that you do, and then also appreciate those around you.”
The second event of the week was Dancehall Aerobics with Resident Hall Director (RHD) Laneesha Bacchus. As mentioned in the previous event, it is important for one to live a healthy lifestyle in order to be a healthy individual and create a positive body image of themselves. This was a great exercise and way to get people moving and feeling confident in themselves.
"For this event, I am looking forward to people having a good time, definitely enjoying cardio, definitely having a total body workout. Also, [I am looking forward] to having a different way of working out in the sense of learning dancehall aerobics moves — or specifically dancehall moves — which originated from Jamaica," Baccus said.
The second day of Mental Health Awareness Week focused on mind. Active Minds at Kean University, an organization focused on raising mental health awareness, hosted an event in MSC, Room 226.
They had several tables around the room for participants to visit. One was an informational table to educate people on what mental health is and the different mental health disorders. They had advice on how to respond or help people with different disorders.
There were also tables that were focused on teaching people how to de-stress, since that is one of the main issues that college students face. For example, at one station one could make a stress ball, and at another one could play with clay. One could write one of their stressors on a balloon and then pop it at another station. Once the balloon was popped, one could see how small their issue is, because the balloon shrinks. These all helped people learn how to de-stress and calm themselves.
Active Minds also focused on VAR: validate, appreciate and refer. These are the guidelines that one should follow if presented with someone who is suffering from a mental health disorder.
Melissa Rojas, president of Active Minds, said, "Instead of thinking about our feelings, also think about the feelings of other people."
On Wednesday, Oct. 10 was World Mental Health Day, so to celebrate Greek Senate had a tabling session in the MSC Atrium. Their table included pamphlets on mental health disorders with resources for those in need, such as The Counseling Center. This was an effective way to educate the population on mental health and the different types of disorders that everyday people suffer from.
That night, everyone came together for the big event of the week, the World Mental Health Day Presentation. It began with catered food and mingling in the Cougar’s Den. It then lead into presentations, starting with one from Ricky’s Compass. Ricky’s Compass is an organization that is focused on breaking the stigmas that come along with mental health and the various disorders. Additionally, they are passionate about raising awareness on mental health, wellness and educating their community on it.
Following Ricky’s Compass was Active Minds. They centered their presentation on self love and the importance to putting oneself first. Rojas explained that sometimes one needs to take a mental health break to focus on one's self. This will make individuals much more motivated, focused and healthy.
The Poetry Club then gave a presentation where some of their members each read a poem pertaining to mental health, and then shared their story on why they write. They all gave a very moving performance and opened the audience’s eyes to the fact that people may be suffering from mental health issues that may be undetected by others.
President Tierra Hooker of the Poetry Club said, “In performing today we wanted to showcase an array of different feelings and perspectives. None of us had a poem that identified the exact same story line. None of us had the same poem in terms of context or situation. It’s important to identify that a lot of writers and a lot of people that resonate with writing all feel different things from writing. It’s important to identify with those feelings.”
She continued, “As a writer you are continuously learning yourself. You are not only advocating for yourself, you are advocating for people who don’t know how to write for themselves or do not know how to speak in public or vocalize how they are feeling. A lot of what the Poetry Club represents is being able to utilize your voice to make a difference.”
Next up was bigsexy inc., an apparel brand focused on confidence that was started by Kean University alumnus John Simons. He explained that a healthy mind is crucial to becoming successful, and that he wanted to represent that in his brand.
He explained his story in that his mother was very self-conscious and how that trickled down to him. He began to feel insecure, a feeling that stayed with him from childhood until after he finished his trip to China with Kean. After being immersed in a completely different culture, his confidence grew back. When he returned to the Union campus, he wanted to keep that mindset with him. He would always tell his barista at Starbucks to write “Big Sexy” on his cup as a confidence boost.
“Being able to say ‘I am Big Sexy’ is roaring confidence. It makes you feel so good about yourself," Simons said.
He explained that being sexy is not just about one’s looks but also their confidence, independence and self-love. It is important to build a positive body image, and Simons is a great example of how one can do so.
The Mental Health Awareness Week wrapped up Thursday, Oct. 11 and was focused on awareness. To raise awareness for mental health, participants gathered outside Starbucks to “place your flag.” Volunteers were asked to write a message on a green flag to anyone suffering with mental health disorders. Some examples of the flags were, “you can get through this” and “you are stronger than you think.” They were then asked to place their flag in grass.
This event was a beneficial way to end the week because it gave a visual of how many people support those with mental health disorders. It showed the Kean community that they are able to unite and raise awareness for such a noble cause.