Trinity Progressives organize first ever Mental Health Awareness Week

Trinity Progressives planned the first Mental Health Awareness Week at Trinity University beginning today, April 12. While the purpose of the event is to spark productive discourse regarding mental illness and reduce stigma surrounding its treatment, the week will also provide fun opportunities for students.

“There’s both a serious and lighthearted side. We want people to be as enthusiastic about eating their vegetables as their desserts,” said Luke Brown, sophomore and member of the Trinity Progressives board of directors. “There’s a panel and there will be fact sheets, but there will also be an ice cream social. We’re hoping to strike a pretty healthy balance.”

The week kicks off at 8 p.m. today, April 12, in Northrup 040 with a screening of “Silver Linings Playbook,” sponsored by Student Programming Board.

Trinity Progressives has collaborated with SPB, Students for the Advancement of Gender Equality, the Trinity University Equestrian Team, Trinity University Police Department, Counseling Services and many other organizations to promote an issue that, according to Brown, is often overlooked.

“We sat down at the beginning of the semester and thought about issues we wanted to cover,” Brown said. “There was gun control and healthcare, but we chose mental health, a really salient issue, and there’s little attention given to it relative to its importance.”

One of the major events planned is the Stress-Free Zone from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 18, on the Esplanade. There will be mini-ponies brought by the TU Equestrian Team, yoga lessons, an ice cream social, popcorn from TUPD, Zines from SAGE, a coloring booth hosted by Trinity Women in Science and Technology and an information table for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Following Stress-Free Zone, speakers from NAMI, TUPD, Counseling Services and the Psychology Department will sit on a panel on mental health in collegiate life at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18, in the Skyline Room.  Counseling Services will also be sponsoring depression screenings from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, in Upstairs Coates and massage therapists from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday, April 18, on the Esplanade.

“Counseling Services wants to join with the student organizers in encouraging dialogue about mental health on campus while reducing stigma and providing useful resources to the Trinity community,” said Kristin Eisenhauer, senior psychologist for counseling services.

The stigma of mental illness stems in part from differences between mental and physical health.

“We want to reduce the stigma of receiving treatment for mental health. A physical wound has an obvious recourse, but mental health gets pushed aside,” said Avantika Krishna, sophomore and Trinity Progressives board of directors member. “The best way to fix the issue is to talk about it.”

Other events include “Rank the Top Causes of Death” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, on the Esplanade with help from Amnesty International.

Throughout the week Trinity Progressives will have a table in Coates University Center selling shirts for $5 with the proceeds benefitting the Clarity Center, the only nonprofit in South Texas that treats children ages three to 17 with serious mental, emotional or behavioral problems, and a photo campaign called “I Am Me.” Trinity Progressives also encourages students to tweet using the hashtag “#Trinitruths” to share their perspective on mental health with the goal of fostering campus discussion about mental health.

“The more we talk about mental health issues, the more people will be aware of useful self-care skills, resources and various types of support that exist within our community,” Eisenhauer said.  “We need to take care of ourselves and each other.  That’s the bottom line.”