The Collegian
Monday, August 08, 2022

Mental Health Awareness Week observed on campus

Collegian Reporter

If you stopped by the Pier on Tuesday night and watched "A Beautiful Mind," you were helping, if only indirectly, to raise the awareness about mental health disorders.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, a national event that is being brought to the University of Richmond for the first time by student-run organization Active Minds. The week coincides with the recently passed economic bailout bill, which includes a law requiring insurance companies to treat mental health illnesses as they do physical illnesses, according to an Oct. 5 article from the New York Times. This has been deemed a marked success by mental health advocates.

Richmond students are pushing for similar strides to be taken to dispel stigmas and mistruths about mental health disorders here on campus. The showing of "A Beautiful Mind," a movie about a schizophrenia-afflicted mathematician and Nobel Prize winner, Tuesday night has been one of the week's activities, said Justin Jackson, Active Mind's co-president. He said it had been chosen because of the movie's optimistic message about mental illness.

The Walk for Mental Health from the Westhampton Green to the gazebo on the Westhampton Lake begins at 6 p.m. today. Both events include food and discussion and he said he hoped students outside of the organization would participate so they could "get this healthy conversation about mental health active."

Active Minds members will also be selling rubber, Livestrong-like bracelets with "Open your mind" printed on them for $2. This will help the group reach its goal of spreading awareness and reducing any stigmas students may have of mental health disorders.

Jackson, a psychology major, said conversation about mental health "can maybe help people seek professional help if they think they need it, because a lot of people feel like they're stressed or anxious or depressed or nervous," he said.

"They kind of bundle it up inside and don't really look for help, because there's a stigma attached to it and they think that people are going to look down on them."

Peter LeViness, director of Counseling and Psychological Services and Active Minds' adviser, said he thought the Mental Health Awareness Week would increase the number of students visiting CAPS.

"Stress is the No. 1 reason why students on campus go to CAPS," Jackson said. "Relationship problems with a boyfriend or girlfriend is like number three, and then also adjusting to college life."

Mental health disorders encompass more than merely depression and bipolar disorder, Jackson said, adding that students should not be afraid to visit the CAPS office in Richmond Hall. One third of students went to CAPS at least once during their time at Richmond, Jackson said.

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LeViness said the staff was always trying to get its information available to students and Active Minds. The CAPS interns, including Jackson, also helped them relay it to students, especially freshmen.

The four CAPS interns focus their efforts on positive psychology and selfcare, in terms of sleep, exercise, nutrition and preventative measures. Active Minds' members work to increase conversation and inform the community about mental health disorders in a broader context, LeViness said.

Although Active Minds might not host the same activities next year, he said he wanted to make the awareness week into an annual event.

Overall, he wanted the Mental Health Awareness Week to get students on campus more open to talking about the subject.

"Any conversation about mental health is productive as long as you don't belittle it," Jackson said. "It's going to reinforce the stigma that's attached to it."

Active Minds is a new organization at Richmond; last year was its first full year. It is separate from CAPS but the two groups work together to promote awareness of mental health issues. LeViness signed up as adviser and Elizabeth Boone, the other co-president, who is currently abroad, had done the rest to bring the national organization to campus, LeViness said.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Hyman at elizabeth.hyman@richmond.edu

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