Author: Michelle DiGiglio
Mental health is a vital aspect of our overall well-being – and its significance is one we may frequently fail to recognize or understand. Mental Health Awareness Week officially kicks off today, Friday, October 16, and serves as a week-long reminder of the importance and necessity of mental wellness, awareness, and acceptance. The week will be filled with multiple events and activities sponsored by various campus organizations and committees. After talking with Matt Indimine, co-chair of Cornell’s Health and Wellness Committee, we had the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the details of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Q: What is mental health awareness week?
Matt: We are at a particularly vulnerable time in our lives. Change is occurring daily. We are being challenged more than ever before, and we have relationship problems coming out the wazoo. Mental Health Awareness Week is just an example of our prioritization of mental health, and serves to remind students of the valuable resources and communities that are there to support and empower us.
Q: What does the Health and Wellness Committee do on campus?
Matt: We promote mental, physical and sexual well-being of students from every unique campus community. We understand that the only way to target health issues on campus, is to engage each diverse campus community in a grassroots manner, by which separate communities can come together to form a mutual support system and develop empathetic understanding.
Q: What are some of the other organizations who will be involved with Mental Health Awareness Week and what are some of the initiatives we will be seeing?
Matt: You can expect to see some pretty cool events from Health and Wellness Committee throughout the week. Just to name a few, on Tuesday from 9:00 – 10:30 at the Tatkon Center, you can find an outlet away from work and create a stress-relief mason jar. In addition, I would definitely check out Ho Plaza on Saturday from 1:00 – 4:00. There will be a photo campaign where you’ll have the chance to de-stress by writing or taking a picture […] Minds Matter has played one of the largest roles in the week’s development, and have organized a number of amazing events with us, including Frank Warren from Post Secret on 10/16 at 8pm in Bailey Hall. Get your tickets ASAP in the WSH Resource Center.
Q: What strategies are you using to target communities to get on board for overall campus wellness?
Matt: Co-chair Carolina, the Health and Wellness Committee members, and I have been reaching out to campus leaders from nearly every community to include them in the planning of the week. Many of these communities are holding events during the week, such as “Athletes and Mental Health Forum,” and ALANA’s G-Body “Minorities and Mental Health.” We are also having one big collaborative “Lift Your Spirits” day on the Arts Quad on October 21st, in which all of these communities will come together to promote mental health, and it should really be an impactful event. For students who want to get more involved in mental health week they can check out our Facebook page (link at the bottom) – we would love to see fresh faces!
Q: What are some major changes you hope to see on campus to combat these issues?
Matt: Unfortunately, there is this negative stigma surrounding mental health, and it really discourages individuals from seeking the help that they need. I think one of the main keys in combating this stigma is a greater acceptance. I want to see students really being there for their peers when they need it. Many different groups on campus seem to promote this idea of a “caring community,” but in order to really foster this, our incredibly diverse student population needs to give diverse input. Issues plaguing athletes may be drastically different from those affecting STEM students, and we must realize this, while keeping in mind that intersectionality exists. Mental Health Awareness week will be a great outlet to display these ideas that can hopefully carry on outside of this week alone.
Q: Do you think Cornell takes appropriate measures and uses enough resources to prioritize positive mental health and acceptance?
Matt: While I can assure you we are nowhere near perfect, we are definitely taking steps in the right direction. As a matter of fact, Cornell just recently received the “National Healthy Campus Award.” This was a true honor, and well deserved one. I realize that there is still work that needs to be done and action that needs to be taken. If I were to make one criticism, it would be that we do not have a large enough outreach – “Friend 2 Friend” trainings should be more widely promoted and utilized by student organizations, athletic teams, and even academic classes, and perhaps greater incentivisation is necessary. Nonetheless I am extremely proud of our school for the positive work it has done and the steps it continues to take for the health of its students.
Q: What’s a major take away/lesson you want everyone to get from Mental Health Week?
Matt: If there is one message I’d like to convey through the week, it is to “#StompOutStigma.” There are so many amazing programs and resources available to students, and no one should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed to utilize them! With that, no issue is too small to seek help for. People think of resources such as “EARS,” and fail to realize that its true purpose is to provide students with a place to simply and anonymously talk with a peer. It crucial to remember that asking for help is never a sign of weakness, and being there for a friend or showing empathy to a stranger can go a long way.
If Mental Health Awareness Week can positively impact just one person, the actions and efforts of the week are worthwhile, taking us one step closer to reaching our goal. The main goal is that mental health awareness and acceptance can expand beyond a single week of the year and become the norm: a fully accepted, destigmatized idea in time. It will not be possible to make such an achievement without a bona fide group effort from us students working together collaboratively for the greater benefit of a healthy community.
If you want to become more involved in Mental Health Awareness Week or in campus mental health initiatives, do not hesitate to reach out and have an active voice. Beside the various organizations, events and campaigns you are encouraged to join, you can find out more information on Mental Health Awareness Week, or Health On The Slope and ask Matt any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org.