Art, therapy and “Why It Matters”: Mental Health Awareness Month 2019 preview


Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Pitt’s Student Government Board has expanded the number of activities it is sponsoring this year and has deemed October Mental Health Awareness Month.

By Benjamin Nigrosh, Staff Writer

Depression and anxiety rates are on the rise for college students in America, with suicidal thoughts and severe depression doubling over the past decade, according to one study. To combat rising mental health issues, Pitt’s Student Government Board has expanded the number of activities that it’s sponsoring this year for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Nina Duong, chair of SGB’s wellness committee, is leading the effort to generate awareness for resources for students struggling with mental illness.

“Through these events, we want to open eyes to this issue, and let them know that this is something that a lot of people are struggling with, and you are not alone,” Duong said.

According to board member Eric Macadangdang, who is on the team organizing the events, SGB has celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month in past years with a few tabling events. But this year, it wanted to give students more opportunities to receive information. SGB has partnered with other Pitt organizations to host nine events this month including a movie screening, a town hall and a roundtable discussion.

“Why It Matters” Whiteboard Campaign
Thursday, Oct. 3
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
WPU Driveway

SGB aims to spread the word about self-care with images of students declaring what mental health means to them. Its first event will pose questions to students surrounding mental health, which they can then answer on whiteboards and post to their social media accounts with the hashtag #PittTalksAboutIt.

In previous years, students have answered questions such as “What does mental health mean to you?” “Why do you talk about mental health?” and “How do you practice self care?” as well as others that the students feel are important, Macadangdang said.

According to Macadangdang, this event is intended to normalize conversation surrounding mental health issues. Too often, students don’t talk about these issues because of the stigma surrounding them, he said. But Macadangdang hopes that these events will bolster conversation and make people more aware that they are not alone.

“This is an opportunity for students who feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and posting it on social media,” Macadangdang said. “To make their friends and family or whoever follows them on social media know about this month.”

Movie Screening of “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story”
Monday, Oct. 7
8 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Nordy’s Place

This will be a screening of the film “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” which stars Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts. The film, based on an award-winning young adult book by Ned Vizzini, details the story of a 16-year-old boy in a psychiatric hospital. Students are welcome to stay for a discussion after the film. Snacks will be provided for those in attendance.

SGB Mental Health Town Hall
Tuesday, Oct. 8
8:45 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Nordy’s Place

In place of its normal public meeting, SGB is holding a Tuesday night town hall that invites Pitt students to pose questions about Pitt’s mental health services to representatives from the University Counseling Center. The panel will consist of Jay Darr, director of the counseling center, Marian Vanek, executive director of the wellness center, and Michele Welker, clinician at the counseling center and Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource Education coordinator.

This event is designed to help Pitt students receive more information on the mental health resources accessible to them on and off campus, Duong said.

Self-Care Fair
Wednesday, Oct. 9
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
WPU Bigelow Patio and Lawn

According to Duong, the Self-Care Fair is SGB’s way of showcasing Pitt organizations that are centered on mental health.

“It’s a way to provide students with resources that they may not have heard of,” Duong said.

Wellness organizations represented at the event will include the Office of SHARE, Pitt Student Health Advisory Board, Pitt Active Minds and the wellness center. Student life organizations tabling at the event will be the Resident Student Association and Student Athlete Advisory Committee. There will also be cultural organizations and clubs present, such as the Vietnamese Student Association, Asian Students Alliance, Black Action Society, American Sign Language Club, Coalition of Pre-Health Students, Feminist Empowerment Movement and Oakland Outreach.

“Confessions of a Depressed Comic” by Kevin Breel
Thursday, Oct. 10
8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
WPU Assembly Room

This event, presented by the Pitt Program Council, will feature comedian and activist Kevin Breel, who will give his presentation “Confessions of a Depressed Comic.”

Since his TED talk of the same name in 2013, Breel has been giving talks on mental health at schools, Fortune 500 companies and theaters across the nation. Breel published a book called “Boy Meets Depression” in 2015, which NPR called “honest and compelling.”

Mental Health and Intersectionality: A Roundtable Discussion
Monday, Oct. 14
8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
WPU Kurtzman Room

According to Duong, this event will be similar to the town hall, but students will have the opportunity to work in smaller groups and have more detailed conversations on mental health.

The panelists for the night include Sagnika Chanda, a gender, sexuality and women’s studies doctoral candidate at Pitt, Toya Jones, a lecturer in Pitt’s school of social work, Jenea Lyles, president of the Black Action Society, and Sarah McKee, president of the Multiracial Student Association. Each panelist will be stationed at their own table, where students can visit and talk about specific issues in small groups.

“What is Therapy” Workshop
Wednesday, Oct. 16
8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
WPU Room 548

This event, presented by Pitt Active Minds, is focused on providing students with more information on how to seek therapy.

Julia Lam, a senior at Pitt and president of Pitt Active Minds, has been developing this event for the past year. The event will feature a presentation from Bobbi Jo Witham, a clinician at the University Counseling Center. She will be providing information on getting help for students that have never been to therapy as well as providing extra resources for those who have been to therapy, but are looking for more information.

The presentation will be followed by peer-run workshops where students are given a chance to talk about their experiences getting help through therapy or other methods.

Lam said that she hopes that this event will make students more aware of the ways in which they can seek help on and off campus.

“We want to destigmatize mental health and spread stories of recovery within the student body,” Lam said.

Stories Untold: An Art Exhibit on Mental Health and Creative Opening Reception
Monday, Oct. 21 – 24
8:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
WPU Lower Lounge

This event will be an art showcase featuring the work of Pitt students, as well as artists across the City of Pittsburgh. All of the art in the showcase will center on the topic of mental illness. Any student that would like to submit a piece of work can email Macadangdang at [email protected] by Oct. 14.

“All of the artists get the opportunity to show how they depict different mental health issues,” Duong said.

SGB will be hosting the reception on the opening night of the gallery, which will be displayed for four days in the William Pitt Union.

Mental Health Vigil
Thursday, Oct. 24
8 p.m. – 10 p.m.
WPU Bigelow Patio

The last SGB-sponsored event for Mental Health Awareness Month is intended to give both students and faculty a louder voice on the issue of mental health, Duong said. Students and faculty will have the opportunity to share their personal experiences with mental illness and what that has meant to them.

The event will also feature a speech from Senior Vice Chancellor Kathy Humphrey.

“It is a very intimate and very moving event, hearing other peoples’ stories, and hearing how they have gotten better and have gotten to where they are today,” Duong said.