From Oct. 2-6, Active Minds, a student-led club dedicated to tackling issues of mental health, has hosted Irish State of MiND: Mental Illness Awareness Week.
According to Jenna Wertshing, president of Active Minds, “We are very excited for this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week. Mental Illness Awareness Week is a week aimed at starting the conversation about mental illness on campus.”
On Monday, Oct. 2, speaker Mike Veny kicked off the week-long festivities in DeBartolo Hall with a discussion of his struggle with mental illness and how his passion for drumming helped him find hope.
Also on Monday, Let’s Talk, free consultations offered by the University Counseling Center, took place. There will be another session of Let’s Talk on Thursday, Oct. 5 from 11 a.m.-12 noon in Coleman-Morse 229.
“Let’s Talk is a place where you can talk about concerns and receive expert suggestions about solutions and resources or just have someone who listens well and can offer support,” the University Counseling Center reports. “No topic is off limits.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 3, a healing mass was held at the Grotto. According to Wertshing, the organizing team planned this to be a wonderful opportunity to pray with the student body for those affected by mental illness.
“Throughout the week, we will have table tents in the dining halls with campus mental health resources as well as with our schedule of events,” Wertshing said. “The UCC has donated t-shirts for the week, and we will be distributing those at our events.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 4, In Our Own Words, held in the Jordan Hall Reading Room, allowed students a chance to tell their stories and share the lessons learned and triumphs had living a life with mental illness. Morgan Seidler, a vice president of Active Minds, shared her story at this event last year.
“When I was 16, I started experiencing depressive symptoms: I really isolated myself from my friends and family, I stopped playing soccer, I fought with my parents all the time, and I just really didn’t like my life,” she said. Seidler discussed how she looked forward to college as an opportunity to make new friends in order to find happiness again.
“For the first couple months of college, I was right. I thought I was doing a lot better. I found some friends I really liked and I was getting good grades and I was absolutely loving the experience of being semi-independent.”
While things appeared pleasant at first, unfortunately, Seidler’s high school experiences returned. “On the outside I thought my life was so much better than it had been. I had some awesome friends, I really liked my classes, and I was involved in some cool extracurricular activities, but I still didn’t feel happy.”
After years of struggle, Seidler finally decided to seek help.
“None of the things that I thought would help were making me feel better at all, and I was so desperate for relief. After three years of experiencing these feelings, I finally went to the doctor and started counseling. It was so awful at first that I dropped out of counseling and never scheduled a follow-up appointment with my doctor.”
Despite this setback, Seidler was determined to try again. “When I came back to school for the start of sophomore year, I had an appointment lined up at the UCC and I was ready to really start dealing with my depression. Now, I am a completely different person.”
Seidler learned to manage her mental illness, and while she still struggles with it as a part of her life, she has learned how to be healthy and stay healthy. In a nutshell, this is much of what motivates Mental Illness Awareness Week.
“Whether students see Touchdown Jesus and wonder why it is green, discuss the table tents in the dining hall or come to In Our Own Words, we want to open a platform for conversation about mental illness and mental health and to show students that they are not alone in their battles,” Wertshing said.