Arrupe Leaders cross the finish line

Senior Becky Hagedorn hopes to outrun the stigma around mental health

As We Approach This Year’s Finish Line, Senior Arrupe Leader Hopes to Outrun the Mental Health Stigma

This past Saturday, the Xavier and Cincinnati communities came together in front of the Cintas Center to address an issue that is commonly experienced but never completely addressed: mental health.

Becky Hagedorn, a Senior and Arrupe Leader, has spent this past year working with the university, Cincinnati community, and various mental health organizations to put together Xavier’s first ever End the Stigma 5K. The goal was to not only get students up and running, but to also start more conversations about mental health on campus and provide more resources for students.

“[I wanted to] get the word out about how easy it can be to talk about your mental health when you have that open ear and open mind,” said Hagedorn, “yes there is a stigma around mental illness, but there doesn’t have to be.”

The End the Stigma 5K offered more than just a race. There was discussion of mental health, including a speech from a Xavier student, Jacqueline Fox. She shared her story of seeking help for her mental health, and how she’s fighting her own battle, as well as helping others to end the stigma around mental health. Xavier University Psychological Services and 1N5, a local organization fighting the mental health stigma, also had a table with information for those who were interested.

All the inspirational speeches, blaring music, and mental health empowerment lead up to the main event: the race. Many ran, others walked, but everyone was cheering each other on and proudly displaying their End the Stigma T-shirts. By the end of it everyone seemed to have fun, no matter what their time was.

“It was awesome to see all the Xavier students, employees, and alumni come out today,” Hagedorn said, referencing the more than 100 people who showed up. She hopes they were able to take a message of courage when it comes to discussing mental health with others. She added that she’d love to see this event continue in the future.

The Arrupe Leaders Project was started by a Xavier Alumni. Graduating seniors who have been very active in the Xavier community over the years are nominated by the graduating class of Arrupe Leaders. The nominees are then given the opportunity to carry out a legacy project and leave their own mark on the Xavier community. “[It’s also] a way for students to look back on their time at Xavier.” Hagedorn added, reflecting on her roles in the community over the years.

With finals approaching and many students racing to finish the year, now is the time to remind the Xavier community to take care of themselves- both physically and mentally. According to the American Psychological Association, 1 out of every 3 first-year college students suffers from some sort of mental illness yet only 15-20% will actually seek out help. The World Health Organization reports that 1 out of 4 people in the world will be impacted by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. The numbers seem to be increasing.

Although the data says otherwise, Hagedorn acknowledges that it’s easy for students to feel alone when coping with a mental illness. This is something she hopes to help change on Xavier’s campus.

“It’s important to know that you are not alone. There are many people here on campus, who you probably know, that are having problems with their mental health,” Hagedorn said. She also emphasized the importance for students to feel comfortable sharing their experiences, and more than likely they will find someone who is able to relate.

Xavier University offers mental health services in the McGrath Health and Wellness Center as well as the Sycamore House. These services are free for all Xavier students. But some students may either be unaware of all the services available or too intimidated to use them. In these cases, Hagedorn encourages the student body to step up for their friends and peers to provide a support network.

The 5K was a success, but it was not the most important thing about the event. Hagedorn hopes it can have a larger impact than being just a race. The idea was to get Xavier, and the surrounding community, talking about mental health.

“I hope they take these things [we discussed] and spread them to their friends and family and carry on the conversation.”

By. Devon Baird | Staff Writer