The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 21st

Letting go of mental health’s heavy stigma

Deepthi Gowrishankar talks to participants before counting down to the balloon release Thursday afternoon.
Buy Photos Deepthi Gowrishankar talks to participants before counting down to the balloon release Thursday afternoon.

Active Minds co-presidents Deepthi Gowrishankar and Shruti Patel said the conversation on mental health needs to be open at UNC.

“Getting help is something we want to promote because it’s an important issue, and that’s why we’re here with all these resources for people to figure out what’s the best way to direct somebody to get help,” Gowrishankar said.

The main event of Suicide Prevention Day was the release of 200 yellow balloons outside Wilson Library at 5 p.m.

All of the balloons released Thursday were biodegradable and environmentally friendly, according to the event’s Facebook page.

“I think the importance of the balloons is that something like suicidal ideation is very easy to ignore, and having something as big as a balloon release of 200 balloons — you can’t ignore that,” Patel said.

Active Minds member Anika Khan said balloons give people a special feeling that they can’t find just anywhere.

“In general, when you see balloons, you think, oh, like a little kid,” Khan said. “It takes you back to a time when everything was so simple.”

Senior Ashley George came upon the event by chance. She said having an event like this has a big impact on the student body.

“When someone denies their own being and says that they’re not good enough or that they’re not worth it, then they’re closing off so much because they have the ability to inspire somebody,” she said.

Khan, Gowrishankar and Patel agreed awareness is important on college campuses around the nation.

“UNC, to be honest, is kind of a stressful environment, and not a lot of people know what kind of help that they can get,” Gowrishankar said.

Khan said events like Suicide Prevention Day go beyond UNC’s boundaries.

“My best friend goes to Guilford, and I actually inspired her to start her own Active Minds chapter at Guilford this semester,” Khan said.

Khan said this is something all campuses can unite on.

“All of us are in this together,” Khan said.

While mental illness carries many stigmas, Gowrishankar said she wants people to know that there is no shame in needing help.

Members of Active Minds and other groups all said suicide prevention is an achievable goal.

“Suicide is a cause of death that is preventable,” Gowrishankar said.

George said one key to suicide prevention is realizing that problems are not permanent, but only short-term.

“It’s in knowing how to deal with it that we actually succeed in surviving and surpassing our trials and tribulations.”


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