Organization spotlights mental health

Multicultural Affairs Administrative Assistant Alicia Millard leads the panelists and the audience in a breathing relaxation exercise. The exercise worked to tighten each muscle in the body and release it in-sync with deep breathing.

Students gathered in the Twilight Ballroom Sep. 27 to listen to a panel on mental health titled, “My Mind Over What Matters.”

The event was a collaboration between five student panelists and the new Black Mental Health Organization.

 “I had been publicizing this since the summer, so for these people to come [means] they literally put it into their schedules to come,” Student panelist Jasmine Hassan, senior psychology major from Houston said. “They actually cared enough.”

The panel was created after Hassan experienced workplace discrimination due to mental illness. The intent was to help create a discussion on mental health at SFA and to encourage de-stigmatization of mental illnesses in the Black Community.

Starting off the event, Hassan picked people out of the audience to participate in an activity demonstrating what someone with a psychotic disorder goes through daily. They did this by showing the tactile hallucinations and the thoughts that may plague people dealing with mental health issues. 

Once the activity was completed, the panelists were presented with multiple questions, like how their families had reacted to their mental health struggles, bringing up discussion of how hospitalization and mental health episodes have affected careers or schooling.

The panelists all took turns among themselves to participate in the question and the discussions at hand. They also delved into how there needed to be a change in how society and SFA culture views mental illnesses. They all openly talked about their interactions and struggles with mental health to the crowd of students and faculty members.

“When I saw all of those people out there in the crowd I was like, ‘Okay, this shows me that people do actually care.’” Brittany Malone, panelist and senior accounting major from Dallas, said. “When people stood up and started sharing their stories I was like, ‘Okay, it’s more common than people think it is.’ That was really encouraging.”

An hour into the panel, Multicultural Affairs Administrative Assistant Alicia Millard came on stage to lead the panelists and the audience in a breathing relaxation exercise. The exercise worked to tighten each muscle in your body and release it in-sync with deep breathing.

After the panelists had concluded their questions, members of the audience were able to speak up about their personal experiences with mental health and ask for advice on ways to cope with such illnesses. 

Throughout the panel, the representatives were adamant about making sure that the students with mental illness felt safe and felt represented, not just in the room, but across the whole campus. Specifically, they addressed the need to have more accommodations for students with mental illness in the classrooms, the need for more black counselors and mental health providers on campus.

Hassan brought up the need for teachers and members of the school police department to go through proper training to ensure safety for students who are in a mental health crisis. 

 “You matter and you have a voice no matter who you are,” Student panelist Courtney Bradley, a junior psychology major from Beaumont, said. “No matter how much you feel you are just in the little crowd, somebody listens. Somebody will listen. Somebody cares. We care.”

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