BREAK THE STIGMA!

BREAK THE STIGMA!

YOUR Mental Health Matters

This is the focus of our activism project, and throughout the semester our goal manifested itself in different ways. In the brainstorming process, we all recognized our passion for bringing awareness to the mental health resources on and off UMBC. Our project was partly inspired by our complaints towards the counseling center on campus, but also our recognition of its importance as a resource for improving students’ mental health. To start this project, we initially planned on consulting the counseling center and see what we, as students and activists, could do to improve the atmosphere of the center.  Along with consulting the counseling center, we wanted to bring awareness to mental health online as well as in person. With that in mind, we created an Instagram account and planned on making flyers and stickers.

 

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The Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/mental_healthactivism/?hl=en) @Mental_HealthActivism was created so that we could reach people who were not yet ready to talk about mental health out loud. Activist projects start off with stepping stones, each new stone is a new level reached. We did not want to push people and make them uncomfortable, creating a bad perception of mental health outreach. We wanted to give people a chance to talk about mental health or become aware of its importance through social media. The instagram page starts off with information about mental health and also some events that took place on the UMBC campus about mental health. The posts then go to videos about people talking about what mental health means to them, the stigma they feel surrounding mental health, and anything else that relates to mental health. This goal was to get people comfortable with talking about mental health and in hopes that seeing and hearing people talk about mental health would then get people more comfortable with the idea of mental health and hopefully take the stigma away. We worked on attempting to get the Instagram page publicity, but we learned that it was very difficult. Obtaining followers and getting likes on your posts is strenuous and does not always happen. However, we have learned through this that you do not need a thousand likes on a picture of 100 followers, you just need to make a difference in someone’s life. That was our goal with the Instagram page, to hopefully get someone more comfortable about mental health even a little more than they were before. The social media posts and flyers were meant to touch on the importance of mental health and reducing the stigma of reaching out for help regarding mental health. We found that making posters was an easy and accessible way to get information flowing about the mental health resources on campus.

We hoped that students would walk in the commons and see our flyer and take note of the capability they had to receive help and wellness.

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After some advice from Dr. Kate, we realized that we could achieve our goal of bringing awareness to mental health without talking to the counseling center. Realistically speaking, we had one semester to complete our project, and trying to change the counseling center’s system might have been difficult for our group to achieve. We easily accepted this change, especially since we wanted to focus more on bringing awareness on campus.  For the rest of the project, we focused solely on strengthening our awareness campaign.

One thing that we would do differently was to engage with other people and their opinions more. We found it difficult to find time to interview different people about their perspectives of mental health on college campus. If we had taken more time to interview people, we may have been able to gather different data to be able to better approach our issue with a diverse mindset. In addition, it would’ve been in our best interest to start some of our projects earlier than we did.

Our relationship with activism changed tremendously throughout this experience. First, we developed a greater appreciation for activists who dedicate their lives to their cause. It was hard enough as full time students attempting to get together and plan activities or poster designs in the semester. The amount of effort one needs to contribute to an issue they are passionate about should never be underestimated. Secondly, we learned that being activists doesn’t always mean touching one hundred people’s lives. Sometimes, activism is making small changes that will set of a chain reaction into something bigger, and this is perfectly fine. Finally, we learned that activism is more than just action. It is a change of mindset that one must have in order to reach people. Our view of outreach definitely grew throughout the semester.

We learned that one of the best ways to reach people is simply face to face. That one connection can change a person’s entire outlook, and possibly catalyze to many more!

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The UMBC Counseling Center

For my activism, I hoped to investigate an issue that has bothered me for a while. I felt as if mental health services were not accessible enough to UMBC students. My sophomore, I was going through a hard time, and I really thought it was time to reach out to the UMBC counseling center. However, when it came down to it, it took me over a week to build up the courage to make an appointment. Why? Because a phone call is the only option student have to make an appointment. I couldn’t wrap my head around this because nowadays everything is done over email or some app. One thing I’ve found with everyone I know with anxiety is that they hate talking on the phone. I know I do. When people with anxiety need the counseling services, they may feel as if they’re inaccessible because there is not a service that caters to their needs. So when I got the opportunity for this activism project, I wanted to do something that mattered to me.

Originally I wanted to do some type of campaign to encourage the counseling center to create an online appointment service. However, eventually it occurred to me that if they don’t have one yet there must be a reason. Here, I decided that the best course of action would be to talk to the director, Dr. Bruce Herman. After weeks of trying to find an appointment slot that work for the both of us, we finally had a very productive talk. I wanted to know about the counseling center as a whole. Dr. Herman also told me that he thinks people are starting to utilize the center’s services more now. Finally, we got to talk about the appointment services. It was really eye opening.

Now, I was facing another challenge. Dr. Herman and I discussed the pros and cons of implementing an online appointment making service. He told me that the main reason such a service doesn’t exist currently is because they would be unable to determine the severity of the situation. With phone calls or in person interaction, the employees at the counseling center are able to provide more prompt help. However, I brought up to him my experience with social anxiety. I was happy to see that he took this seriously. I remembered how, in class, we talked about how sometimes you have to work with your enemy to make change. Not to say that Dr. Herman or the counseling center was my enemy, but I never would have found out the reason why they decided against online services up to this point.

I also never would have found out that the center with be revamping their website to make it more user-friendly. Dr. Herman mentioned that he appreciated me bringing his attention to some things that they may have not considered originally. Now, they may be considering incorporating an online appointment service when the new website is implemented.

The biggest thing I learned from this project is that activism can be small. I kept reminding myself of the definition we came up with in class: that activism is living your beliefs. I fought my own anxiety (and my overwhelming school and work schedule); this was activism for me. Also, I got to sit down and talk about something that mattered to me: making mental health services more accessible to my peers. Though I may not have made the difference this semester, I hope that my views will be taken into consideration in the future of the counseling center after I’m gone. The project was a little more small-scale than I had originally hoped, but I still think I made a difference by simply implanting an idea.

I also encourage everyone to checkout the services that are already available online: http://counseling.umbc.edu/services/

Also, keep an eye out for the new-and-improved site that will also be more entwined with University Health Services (UHS).

FRESHMAN 15: UMBC EATS HEALTHY

FRESHMAN 15: UMBC EATS HEALTHY

As a UMBC student, I’m sure you’ve expressed frustration amongst your friends and about not having enough options to eat on campus. If it is not a lack of options, it is the lack of healthy options. I don’t know about you but an activist has got to eat!

My project inspiration is UMBC and healthy food. UMBC is a culturally diverse campus which means there are a litany of languages, dresses and delicacies that converge here. My project’s main aim is to motivate my peers to eat healthier!   My original idea was to tackle weightloss on campus but that proved difficult and turned political.   Continue reading