To promote understanding, fight against stigma, and raise awareness about mental health, PAX collaborated with the Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP) to host a campus event on Nov. 8 from 6-8 p.m. in the LaRita Boren Campus Center.
The event, endorsed by Taylor University’s Counseling Center and in alignment with the university’s Multicultural Mission Statement, aimed to educate attendees about mental health issues across the globe.
Maribel Magallanes, director of student leadership and cultural programs, explained the importance of sharing stories from individuals to connect people and cultures around campus.
“The idea is to help share stories of individuals that are taking care of their mental health and hopefully encourage some of our students who might be struggling with mental health and need counseling,” Magallanes said.
PAX and the OIP hoped to acknowledge the struggles experienced worldwide, Magallanes said, including those related to the geographical changes and culture shock of students, which can often lead to mental health challenges. Mental health issues are often seen as a “first-world problem,” but the PAX event organizers aimed to challenge this perception.
Senior Nathan Sevilla, community outreach liaison for PAX, highlighted the significance of using open conversations to educate the Taylor community about mental health.
“We have students who are from different cultures and they have had mental health experiences that many people here don't relate to because they come from a different background,” Sevilla said. “It's important to share those stories and help people to understand exactly what mental health looks like within these different cultures, and how, as a community, we can respond best to those experiences.”
The main goal for the Anonymous Stories event was to bridge the gap between different cultures and spread empathy and understanding of the many struggles associated with mental illness on campus, Sevilla said. The event was organized to demonstrate the differences in mental health experiences among cultures.
Anonymous Stories ran in an open house format, featuring anonymous narratives submitted by students as well as informational posters of historical figures, explaining their struggles in mental health and their journeys toward healing. Throughout the evening, PAX leaders volunteered to assist their peers by answering questions and simply being available for any need.
Participants could come and go as they pleased, including all Taylor students, faculty and staff. This system was intentionally implemented to take the pressure off of attendees, as well as create a stronger bond between the OIP and the Taylor community.
Junior Will Lot, president of PAX, emphasized the need for mental health first aid training, noting that all PAX leaders participated in an eight-hour-long mental health first-aid training preceding the start of the year. PAX cabinet completed this training with Scott Barrett, assistant director of the academic enrichment center (AEC) and coordinator of accessibility and disability resources, aiming to implement it in leadership training and campus-wide conversations.
At the event, the PAX team's qualified leadership was committed to raising awareness of the mental health concerns found across campus and around the world, Lot said.
“[PAX members] are well aware that mental health is a very heavy topic for some people,” Lot said.“And we want to make sure that we're looking out for everybody.”
Student stories being anonymous played a part in the event, he said. While still respecting each individual's privacy, the PAX team used this opportunity to encourage people to take care of their mental health and to understand mental health from a different perspective.
According to Lot, one of the unique aspects of the event was its focus on accommodating individual learning paces. Attendees could walk through the displays at their own speed, engaging with the information as they felt comfortable.
To address potential triggers, the organizers implemented trigger warning censors and communicated a preview of the event’s content beforehand through social media platforms. The event featured open dialogue, allowing attendees to engage in discussions about mental health concerning those around them.
PAX and the OIP delivered on their vision of an enlightening event, as it showcased the global aspects of mental health while encouraging open conversations within the Taylor community. By joining their efforts, PAX and the OIP created a safe space for various individuals to come together and learn from one another, ultimately cultivating a more supportive and informed campus community.