Maria M. Silva, Spec. Assignment Reporter
From Oct. 10-12, the Utica College Programming Board (UCPB) will be hosting the second annual Mental Health Awareness Week alongside Active Minds, Alpha Phi Omega, the K. Della Ferguson Womyn’s Resource Center, Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the Pre-Health Professionals Society.
The organizations are seeking to raise awareness on mental health issues that thousands of people experience nationwide, while also exploring how they affect the UC community.
“Mental health week is held due to the growing cases of mental health issues on college campuses nationwide,” said senior Lukus Becker, a psychobiology major and president of Active Minds.
The motivation for this October’s Mental Health Week can be traced to last year.
“Myself and the other co-organizer, Hamza Ditta, have seen many events highlight small aspects of the big topic around mental health, like an event on suicide awareness or fundraiser for Alzheimer’s, but we forget to see the whole picture,” Becker said.
Hamza Ditta, also a psychobiology student, is the assistant director of the UCPB and president of the Pre-Health Professional Society, as well as one of the leading organizers of Mental Health Awareness Week.
“The Mental Health Awareness Week is something we did last year, during this time, which was very successful,” Ditta said. “We had a student talk about their personal experience with mental health, and this year, we are trying to push it a little bit further.
“We never focus on mental health and how that really stagnates people in a certain way. We always talk about physical disabilities because we can see them, but we don’t see what people are struggling with mentally.”
There will be a series of different events planned throughout the week, including talks by members from the UC community and an event to showcase the different types of mental health issues. A workshop will also be held for students to make their own awareness-inspired bracelets and keychains.
“This year, the organizations want to emphasize the importance of having other students share their experiences with mental health issues with their peers, because it creates a conversation that has been missing in our society,” Becker said. “The topic of mental health has been stigmatized throughout history, and it has been shunned to be talked about or brought a negative consequence to those who have talked about it.”
Ditta highlighted the mental health struggles that freshman and sophomore students deal with when it comes to their first university experience.
“College takes a toll on you, especially students in their first and second year of college who are really scared of what the college experience is going to be like, and they go through so much pressure,” Ditta said. “But if you see a junior or a senior talk about what they’ve been through and how they made it to graduate, it just gives them a little hope.”
Hermina Garic, president of Student Government Association, stated that it is important for students to hear their peers’ stories because that gives them “release.”
“Students don’t know what other students are going through, and if they recognize it and support each other, there’s so much encouragement from that,” Garic said.
The sponsoring clubs are also focusing on how holding events such as the Mental Health Awareness Week can help the college community learn how to help themselves or others who may be struggling with their mental well-being.
Sensitivity is the “most important thing,” according to Ditta, because “you never know what battle somebody else is facing.
“We are all facing a battle, we just don’t show it,” Ditta said. “We have to be careful with what we say, because there is a very fine line between joking and being offensive.”
Becker states that it is imperative to first listen.
“This can be with yourself, about how you feel or it can be with someone else, and not interrupting or interjecting with your own opinions,” he said. “It’s important to provide them with the adequate resources that can help them, such as the free counseling center here on campus, or organizations off campus and individuals trained in the field.”