Kristen Witkemper, the chapter president of Active Minds at Carolina, said Balagopal’s mom, Geetha Balagopal, reached out to her and suggested organizing this event.
“She wanted us to spread joy on campus and show students that recovery is possible, but also to memorialize her daughter Priya,” Witkemper said.
“And she said the reason why she specifically was hoping we could work with the PAWS groups is that Priya used to say that she loves dogs more than she loves people. And so she thought this will be a really good way to memorialize Priya and honor her.”
Witkemper said Balagopal was passionate about the way language impacts mental health stigmas.
“One thing that she really emphasized was that we should never say that someone committed a suicide,” Witkemper said. “It sounds like a crime.”
The event will be held in front of Wilson Library from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. Witkemper said 15 to 20 people are volunteering in the event and she hopes more students can come to the event.
“We will just have dogs out on the grass and students can come by and pet them for free,” Zhang said. “They can take a picture of the dogs but they have to pay a small donation fee, which goes to the UNC PAWS.”
Ashley Broadwater, a first-year student, said she is excited about the event.
“I expect a lot of smiling, excitedness and to hopefully increase awareness of mental health to people,” Broadwater said.
Along with having fun with puppies, Witkemper said she hopes this event can help to raise awareness of mental health problems on campus.
“We are hoping that it will allow us to reach out to more people and show them that it’s OK and natural to get help if you need it, that you’re not alone,” Witkemper said.
“One in four college students suffers from a mental health condition and I think that not enough people know about that. So when they find out that they are feeling depressed or they are feeling anxious, they feel alone. And we want to show them that they don’t have to go alone.”