Stopping the Stigma

The Human Rights Institute's 14th Annual Conference speaks on Mental Health and Human Rights

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Stopping the Stigma
Cynthia Yue (left), U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations and Chevon Williams (right), winner of the Outstanding Students Human Rights Activist award, speak at the Human Rights Institute's 14th annual conference.
Taylor Battle, Staff Writer

On Friday, March 25, Kean University’s Human Rights Institute held their annual conference on human rights. The 14th annual conference for this year revolved around mental health and the need for stopping the stigma. 

When opening the conference, Kean University President Dr. Lamont O. Repollet, Ed. D. said “It's time that we take a justice centered approach to stop the stigma." 

Stop the Stigma: Mental Health and Human Rights encourages people to stop the stereotypes surrounding mental health. The Human Rights Institute is determined to encourage the community to speak against stigmas and to open up about mental health.

Leading up to the event, the Human Rights Institute had events all week to advocate for mental health. 

“We hosted a ‘Wall of Words and Gallery of Gratitude’ event encouraging our cougars to anonymously share both their burdens and their joys,” said Dr. Lauretta Farrell, director of Human Rights Institute. “We provided self-care kits and cupcakes so that members of the community will realize the importance of making time to take care of themselves.” 

Many guest speakers were present at the conference and spoke on their experiences with mental health. Cynthia Yue, U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations spoke on adversity growing up and how youths can make a difference in mental health.  

“By talking to your friends, creating discussions in class, posting on your own personal social media accounts, you are making a difference,” said Yue.

Francesco Rizzo-Duffy, licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed clinical alcohol and Drug counselor, followed through with a discussion on mental health in the times of the pandemic. The former Kean graduate of 2013 also spoke on how we should acknowledge one another in these difficult times. 

“One of my favorite quotes that you may be familiar with is everyone you meet is fighting a battle that you know nothing about,” said Rizzo-Duffy.

The last speaker of the conference was Chamique Holdsclaw, WNBA Star and Mental Health Advocate. The former basketball player spoke on her experience with mental health and how she became an advocate. Holdsclaw also discussed how students should make use of the resources around them. 

“This day and age, you young people have so many resources through social media, your colleges and universities, community resources,” said Holdsclaw. “You deserve to be the best you, so just take that step.”

The conference concluded with an award ceremony of people who have made a great impact in human rights. The awardees of the 14th annual human rights conference are as follows: 

  • Chevon Williams, Outstanding Students Human Rights Activist
  • Hank Kaplowitz, Outstanding Human Rights Educator
  • Cynthia Yue, Outstanding Young Rights Activist 
  • Francesco Rizzo-Duffy ’13, Outstanding Community Human Rights Activist
  • Chamique Holdsclaw, Outstanding Human Rights Activist

The overall conference was a success, positively advocating for people to speak out and stop the stigma on mental health. For anyone looking for help, students can reach out to Kean University’s Counseling Center at counseling@kean.eduor call them at (908) 316-8217. 

about the author

Taylor Battle, Staff Writer

Taylor Battle is a junior pursuing a major in English with a writing option. Taylor joined The Cougar’s Byte in Spring 2021 with the position of a Staff Writer. She has a passion for the arts including music, art, literature and theater. She also is dedicated to helping her fellow colleagues to the best of her abilities. After graduating Kean, Taylor inspires to start a career in either journalism or publication.