Panel examines MENtal health and masculinity
Newswire photo courtesy of Trever McKenzie | An all-male-identifying panel discussed identity, masculinity and dignity.
“What does being a man mean to you?” This question opened Xavier’s MENtal Health talk where various faculty members and students engaged in critical conversations about the role masculinity plays in American culture during this Wellness Week event.
Though the audience was small, the panelists were not deterred and answered the difficult questions posed by both the host and the audience with little hesitation. During the first half of the event, the all-male-identifying panelists were tasked with evaluating the role masculinity plays in their lives, and how it affects them and the other male-identifying people around them.
Personal stories and experiences were abundant during the first half. Chief Student Affairs Officer David Johnson shared stories about his son when asked to evaluate the effects of social pressure to conform to masculinity.
“(He) likes to wear dresses,” he said with a large smile. He then told the audience how his son wore a dress to school and came home upset because the other kids asked him questions that made him feel different.
“You saw this pain (that was so) visceral… Nobody should ever have to feel that,” he said.
Garrison Mays, a marketing and Spanish double major, talked about how he dealt with the pressure his clothing choices put on him.
“There are some times where I’ll test boundaries to see who’s okay with it, to see if I’m okay with it, and then taking it to the next level, surrounding myself with people… who might not necessarily be comfortable with it to get to an understanding of masculinity… (and) to help others to grow together,” he said, eliciting laughs from the audience as he listed the types of clothes he liked to wear.
Center for Diversity and Inclusion Director Taj Smith talked about stereotypes created by masculinity by demonstrating common opinions on “fruity” drinks.
“I tend to like ‘fruity’ drinks… which are typically not associated with being a man. You can get looked down on for having a drink with a cherry on it,” he chuckled.
He also talked about how his experience as a Black male creates unique stereotypes.
“I’ve had people react to me as I’m walking down the street…because (they felt) they were going to be harassed in some way,” he said.
Marcus Mescher, an assistant theology professor, emphasized dignity when asked what masculinity should look like in light of Xavier’s Catholic and Jesuit identities.
“We need to reaffirm the dignity of the person for who they are… We really have to embrace this idea of inherent dignity,” Mescher said.
The second half of the event gave the audience the chance to ask questions of the panelists. The questions centered on how to engage men unwilling to discuss their masculinity. Smith noted that every person in the audience could have brought one more person who may not have wanted to come to increase awareness of the topics being discussed, while Johnson suggested finding and creating spaces in which men feel comfortable addressing these difficult topics. Each panelist had his own approach rooted in his own experiences for how to approach men about this topic, and many audience members had suggestions of their own.
Mental Health Wellness Week, which this event is a part of, will continue to run through the week of Oct. 2. The Health and Wellness Fair is Oct. 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Fenwick Green Space.
By: Trever McKenzie ~Online Editor~
Art With Impact uses film to discuss mental health issues
Students, faculty and other like-minded advocates carved a space for themselves on Monday night to share personal battles with mental illnesses and also to reflect on films that provoked deeper thought on the complex and sometimes neglected issue.
Art With Impact, a group dedicated to promoting mental wellness in young people through art and media, collaborated with the Student Government Association to make the event “Movies for Mental Health” a reality. This was the first event of Wellness Week, which is dedicated to raising awareness for mental health issues. Students filed into the theater one by one, and one by one staff handed out anonymous surveys. Its questions revolved around the student knowledge about mental wellness as well as their comfort in sharing it with others.
Before watching a selection of films, Jamari Michael White, an Art With Impact representative and Ohio State graduate, led a brief discussion. He prompted attendees to think about how mental health is currently represented in media and juxtaposed their ideas against the reality of mental illnesses.
This reality is captured in the short films submitted to the group. Anyone in the world at any level of expertise may submit up to five minutes of video. Every month, films are judged and one is selected to be featured on the website in addition to a $1000 prize.
May 2015’s winner, “A Blind Stigma,” was one of the evening’s selections. According to Art With Impact’s website, the documentary “discusses mental health in the Black community.”
Each of the five individuals featured in the film discussed how the Black community has a habit of turning away from mental health services because of the stigma that Black people simply don’t or shouldn’t undergo mental struggles. “I had no idea that the Black community felt so unheard with mental illnesses,” Ariel Georgeff, a junior theater and communication double major, said.
Following the screenings was a panel of four students and two staff members, Associate Director of McGrath’s counseling services Dr. Timothy Barron and associate psychology professor Dr. Nicholas Salsman. In the “what’s said here stays here” safe space, students opened up about their struggles with mental illness.
One panelist, junior theater major Jess Flake, struggled to bring herself to the chair in the spotlight.
“I think I re-drafted my little speech like four times. It was hard to be personal and not just academic about everything,” she told the Newswire. Her fingers steadily knit a trail of yarn while she shared her experiences.
While the event’s goal was genuine, Georgeff wished it had drawn a larger crowd.
“We’re at that point in a semester where people are going to things,” she said.
Flake, on the other hand, was more optimistic.
“I thought that the event did really well to start the conversation about stigmas, and to present some sides that I hadn’t even considered.”
Tonight is Kate Fagan’s talk on the book What Made Maddie Run, which focuses on a college student who committed suicide. Friday is “Facing the Effe-X,” a Xavier Yard event about the real and lasting effects of gender-based violence. Wellness Week will conclude with Warrior Run on Saturday, a five kilometer run and walk to raise awareness for mental health issues.
By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Copy Editor~