A series of events this month will focus on making students more aware of how prevalent mental illnesses are on college campuses and providing guidance to students in need of mental health support.
Mental Health Awareness Month, hosted by the USC Academic Culture Assembly throughout the month of October, started last year and has returned in 2016 after generating positive feedback from the student body.
“The theme for this year is self-care and community care, because we are trying to advocate our students to take care of themselves and to take care of the community as well,” said Luis Vidalon-Suzuki, executive director of the Academic Culture Assembly.
Vidalon-Suzuki said that Mental Health Awareness Month intends to spark conversations among students through a series of seminars and student workshops. The Academic Culture Assembly plans to host a mental health resource fair on Halloween, and has created a mental health resource guide for students to utilize when considering the issue on campus.
“Before this, there was not a centralized location where students could go to for mental health resources,” Vidalon-Suzuki said. “This guide informs students who are in need of help. We [also] passed a resolution through the USG Senate to require those mental health resources to be on all course syllabi.”
While the Academic Culture Assembly is the main host of the program, it is collaborating with other organizations and assemblies to provide more diverse events to students.
For example, the Asian Pacific American Student Services and International Student Assembly are teaming up to provide a workshop in which students can make their own personal stress balls. Furthermore, the Health Sciences Education Program is hosting an event, “Slam Down the Stigmas,” in which students do slam poetry regarding mental health issues and the stigma surrounding them.
“We find that students have a very high rate of depression and other forms of mental health illnesses,” Vidalon-Suzuki said. “The fact that we don’t talk about them or the resources are underfunded is a problem. We want to tackle these issues with different perspectives, which is why we collaborated with other assemblies and program boards.”
Vidalon-Suzuki said he hoped that by bringing these taboo subjects into a public forum for discussion, students would actively be involved in conversations about how to combat mental illnesses.
To start off these conversations, the Academic Culture Assembly invited acclaimed poet Rupi Kaur to campus for a live reading and book signing on Sept. 29.
Kaur’s poetry tackles difficult topics including destruction and healing, and her empowering message parallels the lessons that the Academic Culture Assembly hopes to teach students this month.
Students, however, expressed both positive responses and concerns. Alex Luu, a junior majoring in animation and digital arts, said that he agreed with the concept of the programming series but did not think Rupi Kaur was a good choice as a program opener.
“Kaur did bring light to some issues that aren’t normally talked about,” Luu said. “However, I feel her poetry … fails to address the ‘bigger picture,’ the ‘why’ she is doing her work.”
Nash Iyer, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, said that he liked the more creative format of the programs offered this month, and hoped that other students would take something away from these events that they can use in their everyday lives.
“This program is a good step in the right direction, because a lot of times words that describe mental illnesses are used as derogatory terms to mean bad or stupid,” Iyer said. “But we definitely need more ways to spread awareness, because most people aren’t super motivated to come to talks.”