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Mural coming to Campus Y focuses on mental health awareness

Tam Le, a current junior at UNC, poses in front of her mural for the Campus Y on Thursday, September 1, 2022. The purpose of the mural, as described by the Campus Y's First Year Council, is to "remind students of the beauty in our surroundings, and the light within ourselves and others."

Mental health wellness and awareness have become central focuses for universities across the country, and this is no different at UNC. 

Soon, outside of the Campus Y, students will walk by a pastel-accented mural of UNC’s campus, embellished with various flowers and a large Rameses in the center.

The Campus Y’s first-year council initiated the project last   spring and distributed an artist application throughout campus. 

The council wanted a mural that would uplift spirits and unite students, improving mental wellness and mental health awareness — identifying a favorite in a digital sketch by junior biology major Tam Le.

“Instantly, we were like, 'wow, that's awesome, that's exactly what we wanted,'” Cayson Tiedge, a member of the first-year council, said. “We saw it highlighted the beauty of the campus and the connectedness of the campus. That was a big thing we wanted the mural to speak to.” 

Le said she was inspired by natural scenes on campus, like Polk Place and Coker Arboretum, and by the native North Carolina flora she learned about in a botany class. 

Included in the mural are some of the University's iconic symbols, like the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower, the Old Well and Rameses, UNC's mascot. For Le, Rameses represents a sense of campus unity. 

“I really enjoy school spirit and sport events, and I feel like the school spirit is what bonds us together,” she said. 

Le wanted the mural to inspire fellow students to look around and truly absorb the surrounding environment and let the energy "heal your mental health.”

Le was excited to find out the mural would be a permanent installation.

“Before I thought it was just a little project for the Campus Y. I signed up anyway because it’s a creative outlet for me because I’m a biology major, I don’t really have any other art-related (outlet).”

The project was a large undertaking. Le began the mural at the end of May and continued to work on it throughout June and July as she took summer classes. 

She averaged three to four hours of work each day, and finished painting at the beginning of August.

“It was a really fun project, so I really am thankful that the Campus Y gave me that opportunity and trusted me in sharing my message with the rest of campus,” Le said.

The Campus Y released images of Le’s sketch on both their social media and website over the summer. 

Hope Smith, a sophomore biology major, saw the initial sketch and said the mural reflects the UNC experience well.

“Looking at this mural, I immediately focus on the flowers and the greenery. I think it’s an accurate representation of all of us growing here at our time at Carolina,” Smith said.

The Campus Y has several opportunities for students interested in getting involved with mental health advocacy on campus. One example is the Rethink: Psychiatric Illness committee, which aims to challenge stigmas and raise awareness about mental illness. 

In total, the Campus Y hosts 32 different student-run committees.

“The Y, just as a whole, is dedicated to bringing awareness to mental health — you know, the Y itself is a safe place for people to go to,” Tiedge said.

The mural will be hung outside of the Campus Y within the next few weeks. Tiedge hopes the mural will uplift those who pass by. 

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 Those interested can see the mural's progress on Le's Instagram, @jk_iso