USG organizes Mental Health Awareness Month events

Maya Dondonyan | Daily Trojan

Maya Dondonyan | Daily Trojan

The directors of the Academic Culture Assembly presented their plans for the upcoming Mental Health Awareness Month last night at the Undergraduate Student Government Senate meeting in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. The MHA Month will run from Oct. 12-Nov. 20.

Hannah Nguyen, executive director of ACA, discussed the event’s importance.

“This is the first even mental health awareness month at USC,” Nguyen said. “We really felt that mental health was a growing issue on our campus that affects so many students, but there’s such a stigma around it that nobody really talks about it.”

Nguyen stressed the importance of recognizing mental health issues at USC. She said that ample research shows that mental illness is more prevalent on college campuses.

“[This is] not only because of stress due to midterms and exams and school, but also just the pressures for marginalized students that are first generation or who identify as queer, trans or gender nonconforming,” Nguyen said.

Maya Dondonyan | Daily Trojan

Maya Dondonyan | Daily Trojan

When entering into an environment where they feel unsafe, Nguyen explained, these students have a greater chance of having their mental health adversely impacted.

“We really wanted to approach this issue in a nuanced manner to really have these types of conversations around mental health throughout our programming,” Nguyen said.

Some of the signature activities in the month-long event include a Student Stories Panel; a Resource Fair, where students can learn about resources both on and off campus that they can access if they are struggling with their mental health; a Counselor Meet & Greet, where students can “mingle and speak to counselors in a casual setting about what they do”; a slam poetry night, where students can “express their experiences” with mental health; and weekly de-stress workshops where “students can unwind during this midterm season.”

“We’re having [the de-stress sessions] every Monday at Tommy Trojan, except for one Monday where we will be at McCarthy Quad doing yoga,” Nguyen said. “It’s kind of hard to do yoga on the concrete.”

Another event will be a puppy-petting session, when a person from the Disability Students’ Association will talk about the differences between emotional support dogs and therapy dogs.

Luis Vidalon-Suzuki, ACA’s assistant director, explained that one of key characteristics of the MHA month is its comprehensive approach to addressing mental health.

“We want to emphasize the importance of collaboration with the cultural assemblies because … mental health is not a box. It intersects so much with students’ identities,” Vidalon-Suzuki said. “There isn’t just one narrative behind mental health awareness. There isn’t just one manner to tackle this. There are so many factors involved. We have a holistic approach to mental health awareness.”

Nguyen also talked about ongoing work to ensure a more welcoming campus community.

“The experiences that marginalized students face have serious implications for their mental health,” Nguyen said. “Efforts to create safer spaces, efforts to prevent sexual assault, efforts to provide gender neutral bathrooms and housing for gender nonconforming students, efforts to fight racial bias and sexism and homophobia on our campus, have everything to do with mental health and need to prioritized.”

Another major event in MHA month will be the screening of Silver Linings Playbook on Oct. 15 in McCarthy Quad. The film deals explicitly with mental health issues.

“We’re having Sprinkles cupcakes that are fall-themed,” Nguyen said. “We’re gonna have hot cider, hot chocolate and hot tea, all the good stuff. But hopefully, the screening will really provoke discussion about the topic of mental health.”