The Trinity Progressives, along with Counseling and Wellness Services, will host their annual Mental Health Awareness Week April 10 through the 13. The week will consist of several events centered around raising awareness and providing resources for mental health issues.
“The point of Mental Health Awareness Week is really to build awareness and decrease stigma,” said Dr. Lori Kinkler, a psychology fellow and recent addition to Trinity’s counseling services staff. “I think that just talking about these issues and talking about their prevalence will really help with that. It’s something that we don’t talk about enough.”
The week will kick off with yoga on Monday, which will be held in the Bell Center, providing students a chance to relax and get some exercise.
The next event planned is s’mores and a sharing circle at the Murchison fire pit on Tuesday. Trinity Progressives will have Kinkler on site to help facilitate.
“I’ll be there to help foster conversation and answer questions and be there as a support for anybody who might need it,” Kinkler said.
Maddie Kennedy, one of Trinity Progressive’s co-presidents, has high hopes for the fire pit event, as it is one of the more personal events during the week.
“We’re hoping that more people participate in smaller events, like the campfire, and start conversations about mental health and its effect on ourselves and those around us,” Kennedy said. “We’re really looking to start conversation and thought with Trinity students.”
Wednesday, Trinity Progressives and Counseling Services will be co-sponsoring Super Nacho Hour with tables set up providing information about mental health services. Trinity Counseling Services will be showcased as the main resource, however, they are hoping to have other local mental health organizations represented as well.
Cathy Walters, co-president of Trinity Progressives alongside Kennedy, noted the significance of students taking advantage of the guidance provided at tabling events.
“Our goal is to help the Trinity community where they can access resources for mental health,” Walters said. “The most important part is the tabling we’re doing at Coates. If anyone has questions about where they can access resources for mental health, we’ll have brochures and cards for counseling services there.”
To finish the week, a De-stress Fest will be held at Coates Esplanade. Trinity Progressives are trying to put together different games and events, including a masseuse, yoga and petting zoo.
Unlike in years past, there will be no keynote speaker. Kennedy listed lack of attendance and sensitive subject matter as reasons for passing on a speaker this year.
“We looked at attendance in past years and it just wasn’t high enough,” Kennedy said. “We thought it might not be the best use of resources. It’s hard to find a speaker or entertainer who can handle this type of content in a way that isn’t offensive.”
Cathy Walters shared the same sentiments about the possibility of a speaker.
“Finding a speaker is a bit challenging because mental health is such a personal issue,” Walters said. “It’s better to have a more intimate setting than a very formal speaker setting when it comes to mental health.”
Trinity Progressives began sponsoring a Mental Health Awareness Week in 2013 to help combat the stigma surrounding mental health.
“There was no organization on campus really doing this,” Walters stated. “Mental health is a really prevalent topic on college campuses, so I think it’s important for an organization like ours to address such issues and to make sure Trinity students know where to go if they do have concerns with their mental health.”
The National Alliance on Mental Health, or NAMI, states that one in five American adults experience mental health issues each year. Trinity University is no exception to this statistic.
“Last academic year, about 15.9 percent of the student body accessed our services, most often due to a mental health concern. It’s likely that there are students on campus who have mental health concerns that don’t access our services for a variety of reasons, and certainly the presence of stigma about mental health is one of those reasons,” Kinkler said.
Trinity Progressives’ efforts in raising mental health awareness over the past five years have been fulfilling for not only students, but for members of the organization as well, according to Cathy Walters.
“It’s an event that is very near and dear to Trinity Progressives,” Walters said. “Our organization thrives on just being what the students want and providing whatever the campus needs.”