Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness

Alexander Vo

We all know someone who has experienced depression or anxiety, and we ourselves have also likely experienced these same things. Mental illness is a serious issue that affects a large majority of people, ranging from young children to senior citizens. Each year, more and more people are affected by mental illnesses such as obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, and it only worsens if the person affected by the illness doesn’t seek help.

 That is why Oregon State University is participating in Mental Health Awareness Month, with on-campus organizations such as Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) and Orange Media Network (OMN) teaming up with off-campus organizations such as The Arts Center (TAC) and Art With Impact, a non-profit organization which promotes mental illness through art, to promote Mental Health Awareness Month and bring more attention to a serious issue.

 Bonnie Hemrick, Mental Health Promotion Specialist at CAPS, took the time to sit down and discuss the coordination of Mental Health Awareness Month and how the people who are willing to share their struggles with mental illness will be protected.

“We make sure that everything that’s happening will not be harmful. We help guide people in sharing those stories in a safe way so that there’s no negative impact on the campus. And so we empower people to share their stories but we empower them to do it in a way that inspires hope, and then inspires resilience, as opposed to maybe something that’s going to have people leaving, feeling a little bit wounded or exposed or maybe triggered in some way.” 

According to Hemrick, they also look for additional ideas in order to create more awareness towards mental illnesses, planning ahead to look for ways to spread awareness of this issue.

“We’re also looking for ways to bring in additional ideas. One of the things we’re looking at potentially doing next year is an out of the darkness walk. Doing like a suicide awareness walk where people who have been impacted by suicide can come together and support each other and be able to speak about their experiences and connect with others who have had that similar experience. So we’re always looking at what our overarching goals are, not just for the month, but us as a department. So as a department how are we trying to benefit the mental health of the campus and what things can we do that we can promote specifically during this month to get students involved in an excited about.”

Of course, CAPS isn’t the only organization involved in collaborating towards Mental Health Awareness Month. Art Saves Lives is the theme for this years event throughout the month of May, so there’s a focus on how art can help with mental illness and how art can be beneficial.

Hester Coucke, Curator of TAC, was able to sit down and talk about the upcoming month and how art will provide for mental illness. 

“We feel that the strength of art and making art, experiencing art, is beneficial for your mental well-being, and that is in our mission for our entire community, not limited to OSU and CAPS. We’re always interested in working together with other organizations to lend our expertise, to extend our visibility in the community.”

Coucke also talked about her own personal philosophies on mental illness and how art can help.

“Making art and appreciating art can be beneficial for everybody. I think if you have challenges and you’re able to put it into words or images, you already get a bit of a grasp of it. As soon as you name something and define something, it is less of a big, possibly threatening, cloud in the room if you manage to express it, you’re no longer as afraid of it and you get some control over it, for anybody, but specifically for people with mental health challenges.”

These various organizations are working towards creating more awareness for a serious issue that affects everyone in one way or another. It’s important to highlight these topics because if no attention is brought to it, many will not be able to understand not only what mental illness is, but those who are experiencing a mental illness will not be able to have a sort-of outlet to express themselves, whether it’s through their art or their words. This also allows individuals in the community to come together and support one another on a common issue that affects many people.

 

Photography by Eli Defaria (via unsplash.com)