Mixed reviews for Awareness Week

Students expressed concerns with promotion, timing of last week’s activities

Photos courtesy of Twitter | Mental Health Awareness Week concluded with guest speaker Aaron Moore from To Write Love On Her Arms, a national nonprofit organization. 

The Student Government Association (SGA) hosted Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) activities on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Some of these included sunset yoga and succulent making, talking about Xavier’s mental health resources and bringing in guest speaker Aaron Moore from To Write Love on Her Arms.

Reactions to MHAW were mixed; while organizers felt the event was a success, student expressed concerns with its promotion and timing.

According to Bri Ledsome, a Philosophy, Politics and the Public and political science double major who organized the event, only 64 percent of people who participated in last year’s Healthy Minds survey said they knew where to find resources if they were struggling with mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, there has been a 94 percent increase in the number of incoming university students with severe mental health issues.

With that in mind, the goal of this year’s MHAW was to “bring awareness and create spaces for dialogue to happen,” according to Cole Stautberg, a junior special education major who also helped coordinate the event as SGA vice president. He declared it “a success.”

“Our goal was to spread the word about mental health and show that we support people who live with mental health conditions, and I think we reached it,” Stautberg said.

Yet, many students said they felt SGA fell flat this year with MHAW.

“I didn’t see anything going on outside,” first-year theology and biomedical sciences double major Tessa Doan said. “I didn’t see any events or anything…I thought it was upcoming, but by then it had passed.”

Stautberg himself also noted the turnout.

“We had about 30 students turn out (on Monday Night) and then about 35 students turn out to our speaker Aaron Moore…on Thursday night,” he said. “Of course, we wanted more students.”

Senior nursing majors Sabrina Wendling, Emilie Retton and Katelyn Wnek offered their own theories as to why there was a low turnout.

“If you didn’t have a friend who was in SGA or following on Snapchat or Instagram, you wouldn’t have known about it,” Wnek said.

“I only knew about it because my roommate told me, and she’s in SGA,” Wendling added.

In addition, according to Retton, it seemed SGA did little to reach the first-year class, choosing instead to advertise among sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“I know there were flyers around the residence halls,” Retton said, “but otherwise, you wouldn’t have known.”

First-year sports marketing and sport management double major Priya Deshmukh also said she noticed a lack of promotional materials.

“I didn’t know about it, but I would have gone…because it’s great that Xavier is showing support for those with mental health issues,” Deshmukh said. “It’s a really positive thing to have.”

When asked if they attended any of the week’s events, all who were interviewed responded that they did not.

Jesse Childress, a junior psychology major, said his reasons for not attending were that he commutes and has a busy schedule.

“But that’s another thing about mental health,” Childress said. “Most college mental health stuff should be during and around rest periods, because people not getting enough sleep, being too stressed and having too much to do can cause a decline in mental health. I don’t know, maybe if they did some stuff on the weekend, it might have been more beneficial.”

All three seniors gave similar critiques of SGA’s approach toward MHAW.

“Maybe spread more than just this one week, if they did a month thing, or a day each month,” Wendling said. “I feel like if they did something on the weekend, like if they included Saturday, or Saturday and Sunday, just because people are crazy busy during the week and they might not have time. But if they have it on the weekends, I mean, I wasn’t doing anything Saturday, and I would have showed up to something.”

Despite the critiques, there may still be hope for future MHAWs. Ledsome said they want the event to be a starting point to continue the conversation about mental health.

“The work surrounding mental health awareness on our campus is just beginning,” Ledsome said. “While we want to make the week annual of course, we also don’t want the conversation to be a week long. We want to continue to bring the conversation to new and innovative spaces to ensure the dialogue continues and our campus can be as healthy as can be.”

By: Alana Belmont | Guest Writer