Student mental health organization Active Minds facilitated its annual Mental Health Week to spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention on a campus affected by this year’s severe decline in mental health among young people. Studies have linked the national decline in mental health to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Oxford specifically has seen an increased number of suicide attempts this year.
Active Minds partnered with other campus organizations to hold a de-stressing or informational event each day of the week. On Monday, the group teamed up with the William Magee Center and Mr. and Miss Ole Miss, Cade Slaughter and Lilli Gordon, for #UMListens, an event meant to create a safe space for students to conversate about mental health on campus.
#UMListens is a phrase that the UMatter Office and the Magee Center coined, and it was a part of Mr. and Miss Ole Miss’s Forward It Fund, the philanthropic effort to fundraise for and program activities around mental health, fine arts and literacy. Students and faculty were invited to choose from a wall of buttons with different moods written on them, ranging from wishful to frustrated to refreshed.
“I remember this activity happening in the Circle my first year as a student, and I still have my button that says ‘valued’ sitting on my desk in my bedroom,” Slaughter said. “Seeing so many students purposefully look over the board and walk away with a button was an incredible feeling of accomplishment and also just love.”
Gordon said many students are still feeling isolated due to online classes, but she sees showing up to events like these and recognizing your emotions is one of the first steps in healing.
“I love that this event called on students to come out and enjoy spring in Oxford while also reminding them that it’s okay to not always feel their best,” Gordon said.
On Tuesday, Active Minds partnered with the Student Activities Association, the Campus Recreation Center, the Counseling Center and the Magee Center for GLOWGA at the Grove Stage at 7:30. Dozens of students gathered for a meditation and nighttime yoga session taught by a Campus Rec instructor, glow-in-the-dark accessories and free refreshments.
Lydia Cates, the president of Active Minds, said she was most excited about Wednesday’s event, Brushing with BSU, where students were given the materials to paint canvases in the Grove with the assistance of an artist. It’s an annual event that Active Minds collaborates with the Black Student Union to put on in the fall, but it was postponed until now due to COVID-19.
“Obviously students are struggling with mental health, but it’s been harder for us to be able to accommodate that with everything that’s going on,” Cates said. “I’m just glad that we are now able to at least do some of that programming to help and spread awareness for our students.”
On Thursday at 4:30 p.m., students were invited to listen to UM sophomore Alex Bush tell her mental health story via Zoom, as well as learn from her about suicide prevention and navigating life as a young adult. Bush has lost six loved ones to suicide — two of whom were family members — and has dedicated her life to mental health advocacy.
“I don’t want to see it happen to anyone, because (suicide) is a horrible thing for people to experience,” Bush told the Daily Mississippian in March. “So I just dedicate everything I do to the people who’ve lost their lives or a loved one to suicide.”
On Tuesday, the Oxford Police Department stated via Twitter that officers have responded to an increased number of suicide attempt calls and welfare concerns on suicidal individuals this year. The tweet included resources for individuals who are struggling and warning signs to look for, such as when an individual begins to isolate themselves, increases their use of drugs and alcohol or talks about feeling trapped or like they are a burden to others.
Mental Health Week will wrap up on Friday with Blenz Bowls Percentage Day. A percentage of the proceeds from sales that day will go towards the University Counseling Center.
“There are students on campus that don’t really realize that we have resources like the UCC and the Magee Center, so I’m just excited for people to actually come in contact with them and find out what they’re about,” Cates said.
Cates says Mental Health Week is vital in fighting the stigma surrounding mental health because it allows students to experience other students openly speaking on their personal experiences with it.
“Hopefully seeing other students being so open to talking about their mental health journeys will encourage them to work on their own mental health journey in a productive, efficient and helpful way,” Cates said.