After a year of restrictions, social-distancing practices and stress, many UNC students are finding the need to check-in with their own and others’ mental health status.
UNC’s Mental Health Coalition is bringing attention to this with its third annual Mental Health Awareness Week, set from March 29 through April 2. This awareness week will consist of mental-health-related events and training sessions that all students can partake in.
The UNC Mental Health Coalition has been working alongside various other UNC Mental Health organizations to create events encouraging students to start conversations and ask questions about mental health.
The coalition will be holding an online social media fundraiser, facilitating an outdoors, socially-distanced physical activity and working with other campus and community entities to highlight initiatives that work toward fostering a better sense of community.
Nikhil Rao, a senior studying psychology and health policy and management, is one of the UNC Mental Health Coalition co-facilitators and has helped organize the awareness week.
“There are so many great groups that are striving to destigmatize mental illness and provide more mental health support on campus," Rao said. "I’m so excited for the chance to highlight them and all of the amazing work they do.”
Rao said he hopes the training being offered can help equip community members with skills and knowledge to better support their peers.
Raleigh Cury, a senior studying public policy and history, is another co-facilitator for the program. She emphasized the importance of taking intentional time to honor what we as a community have been through.
“This past year has seen rising numbers of people struggling with their mental health and has exposed the inadequacies of our institutions in actually supporting people,” Cury said. “The Mental Health Coalition does not pretend to have these answers, but we want to foster conversations about how we can do better.”
Some students hope to participate in some of the events that Mental Health Awareness Week has to offer.
Annelise Marsh, a sophomore studying biology, said she is eager to benefit from this awareness week to learn more about resources available on campus.
“So many college students are experiencing new and challenging environments that can make one doubt themselves and their abilities, which quickly fosters mental health issues,” Marsh said. “It’s important that awareness is spread for ways to get help and emphasize that mental health is not a stigma that someone should be embarrassed about.”
And the Mental Health Awareness Week is not solely supported by students. Faculty and staff advisors are also getting involved.
Samantha Luu, associate director of UNC’s Peer Support Core, works with the coalition by promoting opportunities for peer and mutual support for staff, students and faculty.
Luu said mental health is still stigmatized — especially in environments where individuals are high achieving and where mental health contradicts cultural norms.
“I think Mental Health Awareness Week is important in that it works towards de-stigmatizing mental health," Luu said. "And it reminds our Carolina community that taking care of our mental health should be both a personal and collective priority.”
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