Mi Pueblo is continuing its goal of turning physical events virtual while reaching out to the campus community to support mental health during unprecedented times.
On April 16 Mi Pueblo and a representative from UNC Counseling and Psychological Services hosted Reclaiming Identity and Direction in Life, a one-hour interactive event using expressive art to promote relieving stress via Zoom.
Jackie de Melo is the political action committee co-chair for Mi Pueblo who helped organize the event.
“During this pandemic, everything is so uncertain,” de Melo said. “A lot of things are up in the air and not just for our community, for everyone, but especially in our Latinx community.”
Mi Pueblo is a student organization that seeks to sponsor awareness around Latinx issues, culture and heritage at UNC and the surrounding community.
“There's a huge stigma in the Latinx community that mental health is not a thing,” de Melo said. “If you're feeling you have mental health problems, sometimes people think you're ungrateful, it’s not valid or it’s just sadness, you'll get through it.”
De Melo said they had originally planned to have a series called “café con conversaciónes,” meaning “coffee with conversations.” Because they did not return to campus, they decided to reach out to CAPS to organize an event focusing on mental health.
“We all know that we're going through something,” de Melo said. “I think that collective recognition of this being a hard time for everyone, and being able to process our emotions and being able to validate them as individuals, but also in a group setting, can be really empowering.”
The virtual drawing event worked with the visual metaphor of a tree to represent the participants' lives and various elements that make it up.
By labeling parts in the tree, one is meant to discover parts of themself from the past and use that reflection to model their tree for the person they want to be in the future.
“Through drawing you can see what is coming from your innermost emotions and thoughts and actually put that on paper,” de Melo said. “That is very soothing, but also at the same time it can be daunting.”
Mirella Flores is a counseling psychology intern with CAPS who led the drawing activity. Part of Flores’s background is the use of creativity in therapy. One means of expression can be drawing with metaphor. Flores chose to use a tree to address all aspects of people's lives.
“I wanted to use an expressive art because it helps us unpack things that could take a lot longer for us to access through traditional talking and talk therapy,” Flores said.
At the end of the activity, the group discussed what was coming up for people and made connections by resonating with others' reflections. Flores said she was moved by the reflections that were shared during the conversation.
“It’s a world pandemic,” Flores said. “There's a lot of emotions that are coming up from fear, to anger, to grief, to sadness and most people are not just experiencing one at this time and that can create a sense of overwhelmedness, of not knowing what to do or doubting how you're feeling right now is the right way to feel.”
Alysson Valverde Torres is the current co-president of Mi Pueblo. Valverde Torres said she has been trying to find ways to better use her free time while at home, and the event seemed like a cool way to continue her self-reflection.
“It really got me thinking about what I’m grateful for and what I still need to grow on,” Valverde Torres said.
The project did not require any special artistic abilities, Valverde Torres said.
“Usually I’m a perfectionist, everything has to look perfect for me,” Valverde Torres said. “When it’s guided like she did, it was so easy to focus on the purpose of the artwork instead of the aesthetics of it.”
Mi Pueblo is having a second event next week with CAPS. De Melo said the next event will be about coping skills during the pandemic and an introduction to online resources that CAPS is providing.
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