by Mikayla Nicholson
Whitworth is having its first ever Mental Health Awareness Week. Junior Christopher Engelmann and his team, along with the Restoring Hope Club, have planned events, speakers and concerts to raise awareness about mental health.
He got the idea for starting the project because he used to have a few friends who had suffered from mental health issues and were met with resistance when they went to seek help from their friends around the Whitworth community, Engelmann said.
“I know that there is a general stigma to mental health not just at Whitworth but in the United States,” Engelmann said. “And I just thought it would be great to address those issues by trying to make a fun event and help out in any way I can to make anyone feel comfortable to go seek help wherever they need it.”
Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from March 10-14 and there is a different event happening every day.
The events include a panel discussion and student Q-and-A with sevreal mental health professionals and a psychology professor, a campus-wide Prime Time led by health advocates and the Restoring Hope Club, a movie showing and a concert featuring Junior Sarah Curry, Junior Courtney Fairhart, Senior Katelyn Andrews, Sarah Cameron and the Pine Tones.
Starting off strong this year will be the best way to move forward and hopefully continue this event in years to come, Engelmann said.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to go big or go home,” Engelmann said. “I want to make this event special and memorable.”
Despite some hang-ups and stress, this experience has been a largely beneficial one, Engelmann said.
“I have a great team. They’ve been wonderful, and this event has been a very positive experience,” Engelmann said.
Senior Daniel Scheibe is a part of Engelmann’s team, and he has been helping out with the logistical side of planning the week.
“This is a first-time event so figuring out exactly what we have to do has been a challenge,” Scheibe said. “Especially when we don’t have anything to go off of.”
Coordination with the buildings, organizing the campus-wide Prime Time and money flow has been a challenge, Scheibe said. Mental Health Awareness Week does not have an allotted budget, because its not an official club, so the team had to figure out exactly where the money was going to come from.
“We’re funneling everything through the Psychology Club budget,” Scheibe said.
Scheibe is the vice president of the Psychology Club and said that his position has been helpful in the process.
Scheibe also said he was interested in breaking down the social taboos about mental health.
“I think people are more willing to talk about it than people think,” Scheibe said.
Engelmann also hopes to bring light to some misconceptions about mental health.
“Mental health can come in many different facets and can be seen in different ways,” Engelmann said. “And I think that sometimes it is bundled up into one assumption like, ‘You have a mental disorder? You must be doomed for life’ or ‘You have anxiety? You must be worried all the time’ instead of an understanding that there is a continuum to disorders that people suffer from, and people who have mental disorders aren’t doomed or are unable to succeed with life.”
Engelmann wants Mental Health Awareness Week to erase some of the taboos about mental health disorders he said.
“I think mental health is a little bit of a hot topic with some people. It’s difficult to talk about, because we have a lot of political correctness, and it’s difficult to address difficult issues.” Engelmann said.
Someone who has depression might think that their illness is rarer than it actually is, so they may feel that they cannot talk about it with anyone, Scheibe said.
“I want mental health to lose this stigma that you can’t talk to people about it,” Scheibe said. “If you break your arm, everyone asks you about it. You can be free to tell them, and people are supportive. But if you have a mental health problem, it’s just as impactful, if not more, to your life, but you may feel like you have to keep it to yourself and worry that people are going to berate you for it. I want that whole system to just crumble.”
Contact Mikayla Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org