Each year, Agapé, LMU’s mental health service org, hosts a week of advocacy events trying to increase on-campus visibility and raise awareness of resources that students can use to improve or maintain their mental health. This year, the theme is “Staying Afloat,” and Agapé’s social media has adorned a rubber duck as the emblem for the annual event.
Members of Agapé (including myself) collaborated with LGBT Student Services, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP), and the Over the Hump Initiative, to name a few.
Day 1: 10/2
“If nothing else comes from this workshop, I want you to at least have the ability to take a moment and ask yourselves what you need right now.”
For the first panel of the Mental Health Marathon (MHM), psychology Professor Timothy J. Williamson led a panel on self-compassion. “We all experience pain and suffering- that’s life. It’s how we react in those situations that defines who we are,” he stated.
Williamson led a guided meditation and group discussion, talking about being mindful of how we view ourselves in adverse scenarios and encouraging us to show ourselves compassion while dealing with unfortunate circumstances.
He left the group a formula for self-compassion:
Awareness of suffering + A desire to alleviate that suffering + Action = Compassion
“Self-compassion is not a finite resource,” Williamson said. “In fact, people who use self-compassion tend to be more resilient and have more grit in the face of adversity.”
Day 2 10/3
On day two of the mental health marathon, Kelly Manning, a volunteer from AFSP, presented on emergency mental health and suicide preparedness. “Five of my classmates who graduated in 1980 have died to suicide. We have to have these conversations,” Manning underscored.
Manning discussed terminology surrounding suicide and how we should approach these scenarios when we see someone struggling. “Act as though you are the only person who notices,” she stated. “Reach out as though you are their only resource because you could potentially save a life.” Manning emphasized the importance of acting as a support systems for those struggling with suicidal ideation, as oftentimes those struggling feel pressures that prevent them from seeking professional help. “Be a friend because you really never know what someone’s going through.”
Day 3 10/4
The third nightly panel saw members of the Over the Hump Initiative, an on-campus resource for mental health, collaborate with Agapé president Rocky Jacobs for an advocacy event. Students packed into Seaver to write to local representatives, congressmen, and State Board members asking for an additional anti-mental-health stigma to be added to California’s K-12 curriculum. “I am not requesting a complete revision of our mental health curriculum,” the template members used reads, “Even having 1-2 sentences defining stigma and stating that it appears in mental health conversations could create ripples of conscious attention towards these unnecessary, uncomfortable feelings.”
Day 4 10/5
The fourth panel of MHM focused on mental health issues in marginalized groups and featured Dr. Jennifer Abe from the psychology department and Dr. Nathan Sessoms in the sociology department.
Abe stressed the importance of a community-oriented approach in tackling mental health and the stigma surrounding marginalized communities. She suggested that communities start working cooperatively rather than competitively to fight the stigma surrounding mental health.
Similarly, Sessoms discussed race relations in the wake of George Floyd’s death. He delved deeper into the intersectionality of systemic racism and how it bleeds into the stigma surrounding mental health in these communities. He discussed how systemic racism exacerbates pre-existing mental health stigmas for all communities involved.
Day 5 10/6
Agapé finished the marathon off with a bang, by collaborating with all ten service orgs in the middle of St. Regents Terrace. The event was dubbed “10 Rooms,” as each service organization had tables- all of which promoted different areas of mental health. Agapé’s table was adorned with customized tiles with affirming words, drawings, and memes that surrounded a bucket of water which members called “the pool.”Members poked holes in some of the rubber ducks, causing them to sink.
The tiles and pool served as a metaphor to illustrate that in times of struggle, you can “see the community and support systems around us,” senior Agapé member Tessa Gin stated. The water represented how the weight of the stigma can sometimes drag even the cutest duck to the bottom of the pool. “Sometimes when we’re struggling…the weight of stigma can be so heavy that it still drags people down- even with that support… That’s why we’re here, to fight that stigma that surrounds mental health.”
Whether the duckies found themselves sunk to the bottom of Agapé’s anecdotal pool or floating above the “stigma,” they were loved by attendees who wrote affirming messages for them until this year’s MHM reached the finish line.