The William Magee Institute for Student Wellbeing at UM established the happiness team with the goal of using storytelling to help cultivate joy in students’ lives and promote good mental health. On Sept. 16, it was announced that the team will be a key part of the work done in the Thomas Hayes Mayo Lab.
The lab honors late University of Mississippi student Thomas Hayes Mayo, who died of fentanyl poisoning in April. The lab aims to improve mental health and decrease substance abuse in students of all ages.
Mayo was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and a special emphasis is being placed on increasing drug abuse awareness among members of the UM greek community.
The happiness team was founded by David Magee, director of operations for the William Magee Institute; Shirley Gray, instructor of writing and rhetoric at UM; and Meagan Rosental, interim executive director of the William Magee Institute, with a goal of improving mental health in the Oxford community. The team draws from their own experience with stress, anxiety and loneliness in hopes of helping other people who are going through the same thing.
Throughout the project, the team at the William Magee Institute hopes to increase research evidence supporting the importance of joy and happiness and narrative storytelling in health behavior change.
Rosenthal believes that through storytelling the initiative will be able to make a long-lasting impact on the students who participate.
“Storytelling will be used to create an emotional connection with audience members and make the skills and tips for increasing happiness ‘stickier’ and more likely to be taken up and practiced,” Rosenthal said.
The initiative is set to start this fall in middle schools and high schools, due to the increased amount of children who are developing substance abuse problems prior to beginning college, along with students at the University of Mississippi.
Magee plans to air a podcast in 2023 that gives families and students additional support that is easy to integrate into their daily routines. The podcast will be called The Mayo Lab.
The two foundations as a team hope to provide students with healthy coping mechanisms and skills that can be used instead of unhealthy habits, such as substance misuse, disordered eating and perfectionism.
The main goal is to improve the overall morale and health of the University of Mississippi community as well as the greater Oxford community.
Peer-to-peer education will be the main form of education utilized, and everyone is encouraged to apply to become a part of the team.
“If you are considering applying, please apply. And remember, great stories aren’t all dramatic, but do have three common elements: a beginning, middle and an end. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at email@example.com,” Rosenthal said.