Ellie Tiemens | The Echo
Everyone has a mental health.
This phrase has become a slogan for the new Taylor chapter of the Students for Mental Health Awareness (SMHA) club.
Led by sophomores Grace Weeks, Rachel Knight and Maya Laytham, SMHA was started at Taylor to raise awareness about mental health through events that start conversations.
Weeks, the president of the club, was inspired to start SMHA at Taylor by a friend in high school who started the club there.
More recently, Weeks took an interpersonal communication class and realized that one thing not being taught in this class, or really anywhere, is that neurodiverse people communicate differently, and that is often misunderstood.
Neurodiverse, as opposed to neurotypical, is a term referring to the neurological differences between people. Often this term is used to refer to those who are on the autism spectrum or who have other mental health divergences, such as ADHD or anxiety.
"We're hoping to promote events and we're hoping to create events that raise awareness of neurodiversity of all sorts across campus," Weeks said. "We really just want to educate people about something they probably don't know. Because neurodiversity is something that is a lot more common than I think people realize because it is such a stigmatized topic, nobody wants to talk about it . . . so really it's just to start conversations."
Though the group is still relatively new, and not yet an official Taylor club, they have plans for events for next semester that will promote discussion and raise awareness of neurodiversity at Taylor. These potential events include a neurodiversity panel, a film series with talkback sessions, a sensory event, collaboration with the counseling center and others.
Additionally, as May is mental health awareness month, this group is hoping to promote that through an informational campaign.
Weeks said the group's overarching goal is to start conversations and help people learn more about themselves and others so they are better able to love each other.
"Really, it's more about relational," Laytham said. "It's not just 'here's information,' but also how do you bring this abstract concept into your everyday life, which is I think something that is super relevant to a liberal arts college."
Caroline Poland, the director of the counseling center, expressed the counseling center's excitement for this club.
"We believe that conversations about mental health are absolutely critical to have within this community," Poland said. "There is a lot of good, helpful information that can be shared about mental health, and we need many collective voices, not just a few, talking about these things, and we are hopeful that a student led awareness group can contribute to the collective voice."
Currently, this group consists of 12 members but is always willing to accept more members.
In order to become an official Taylor University club, SMHA needs a faculty adviser. Anyone interested in joining or advising this club can contact any of the leaders. Leaders of this club also invite questions and conversations from anyone and everyone.
"We're a school that is all about intentional community," Weeks said. "It's hard to have an intentional community when some people who feel like they have to hide a part of themselves . . . For Taylor specifically (this club) is important so that we can love each other in Christ better and accept each other as brothers and sisters better."