By: Alizé Rosado
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – One in four people struggle with mental illness. That’s 25 percent of the population. Even with such a large percent of the population struggling with mental health, people still face a stigma. On October 16, Niagara University students took a stance against mental health stigma at the first ever Stigma Smash.
The Stigma Smash is a new mental health awareness walk that was created personally for NU. This event took place in the Gallagher Center and had over 75 people attend. The Stigma Smash committee responsible for this event is comprised of students, professors and other campus faculty who all helped make this event possible.
The main sponsor and coordinator of the Stigma Smash was NU’s To Write Love On Her Arms chapter, otherwise known as “TWLOHA.” TWLOHA’s mission describes it as a national “non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.”
“The point of this event is to bring awareness to mental health and the stigma around mental illness” said TWLOHA Vice President Amanda Garry. “We want to break that stigma and make it okay to talk about mental health.”
The event kicked off with a half-hour tabling session. Attendees were able to go around to tables set up by different clubs and organizations to get information either about that club and what they stand for or information about mental illness and stigma. Different groups represented included Active Minds, Psychology Club, NU Alliance, Mental Health Association, Phi Sigma Sigma, NUFTA, Philosophy Club, Fight for Life and more.
The event also featured three speakers: Marissa Seib, Nanette Harmon and Rick Salada. The speakers provided three unique perspectives on mental health, coming from someone who has mental illness, someone who loves someone with mental illness, and a clinical professional who deals with mental illness.
To finish off the night there was a performance by NU’s a capella group “Soar Throats” as well as a candle lit walk to pay respects and tribute those with mental illness. The event was a big hit by everyone who attended.
“It was a great success” said Jenna Schlosser, an NU junior. “All of the tables and speakers put in a lot of effort and I think it was a great way to spread awareness and support.”
In the future, TWLOHA hopes to make this an annual event and continue to spread the important message of reducing mental health stigmas.
“Everyone deals with it on some aspect in their life but people don’t talk about it because of the stigma,” said Garry. “Everybody just thinks if they’re dealing with something they can’t talk about it, they have to shut it away so nobody knows what they’re dealing with, but the reality is everyone’s going through something and we want to make it more common for people to talk about it.”
Even though the event is over, students should still carry on the message and do what they can to reduce mental health stigmas. The best thing you can to do to reduce stigma is to talk about mental health. Educate yourself and others, support people and know that it’s okay to not be okay.