Active Minds hosts mental health forum

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Photo courtesy of Sonja Franziska Tutsch

Active Minds held a mental health forum on Wednesday to raise awareness and attempt to remove the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.

Morgan Cardenas, Staff Writer

Active Minds held a mental health forum in an attempt to combat the societal stigma that surrounds mental health on Oct. 3 in Gardner Hall.

The forum kicked off with Amanda Murphy, the emcee and grant collaborator, explaining what the forum would be about. Murphy discussed how the building was a safe space for everybody and emphasized the room was a judgement free zone.

“This forum is absolutely and utterly here to bring mental health awareness and education to the Wayne State campus through a grant at UNMC (University of Nebraska Medical Center) and funded by the Rural Future’s Institute of Nebraska to reduce stigma among rural college campuses,” Murphy said.

Murphy introduced Micala Gatchel, a member of Active Minds, who talked about what the group and its functions. Gatchel explained how Active Minds is active on campus in order to raise awareness for mental health.

“I was raised in a world where [mental health] was understood and accepted and talked about because both of my parents are sober and attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and attendants are very much surrounded by mental health,” Murphy said.

Murphy spoke about her struggles with diabetes, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and toxic relationships. She opened up about her family’s support and how she got to where she is now.

“There was no opportunity to hide and I don’t get to say things like ‘my parents didn’t believe me’ because they did and I still struggled with my mental health and I’m saying I’m the perfect case of a person that should have mental wellness and I didn’t,” Murphy said. “Discovering how that came to be made me really want to help other people.”

After Murphy told her story, Darian Davis, a member of Active Minds, explained some of the staggering statistics of mental health among college students. The next speaker was Julia Jones, a freshman, and she told her story called “Hyperactive.”

“When I moved to a small town, I really was not accepted and I didn’t want anyone else to go through that,” Jones said. “Later in life I saw through my own mental journey, I saw that I had a greater purpose in helping others.”

Jones spoke about how she moved across the country to Nebraska and how difficult it was to fit in. When she got to high school, she started to make friends but felt like something wasn’t right.

She had negative thoughts and feelings that she did not really understand but when she reached out for help, people told her she was overdramatic. After finally talking to a counselor, she found out she had severe depression, anxiety, OCD and hyperactive depression.

“I was constantly telling people that I suffered from severe depression and anxiety and I made it a normal discussion to help educate others,” Jones said.

Jones talked about how she now understands what is going on with her and how to handle it and that it’s not just a phase or a mood but something that is real.

“A lot of people know something is wrong or see something that is wrong and they can’t put a definition to it,” Jones said. “That is a big part of why we spoke today, so we could help others put a name to it.”

Murphy spoke about social environment and what it has to do with mental health after Jones finished. She explained some common misconceptions about mental health and the importance of understanding those who struggle with mental health.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup and mental illness that is unchecked and untreated is an empty cup,” Murphy said. “You’ve got to first work on yourself and then you can go out work on everything else.”

The next speaker was Miguel Gavan, a junior, who shared his story on mental health called “In Progress.” Gavan talked about his struggles with his family and his emotions. He is a first-generation college student and neither of his parents speak English.

“It’s interesting to see my parents’ stance on mental health and it’s not a big thing with my parents’ generation,” Gavan said. “They have that male mentality that a man shouldn’t cry or show emotion and his problems shouldn’t been physically apparent.”

Gavan went on to talk about how he was bullied throughout school and he started coping by putting off his emotions. He believed that no reaction to anything was the easiest way to get through school. After seeking help for his emotions, his dad didn’t support him and he stopped getting help for a while.

“There are some people who won’t voluntarily look for help because of pressure from homes,” Gavan said. “In my case my dad definitely did not approve of this and I was hoping to reach out to those who are hesitant because of their family.”

Gavan decided to seek out help when he started college and believes that he has gotten back on track to help himself get better.

Brianna Parsons, a freshman, spoke after Gavan with her story “An Impact That Lasts a Lifetime.”

Parsons revealed that she was born 15 weeks early and almost died, along with her mother. Her vocal cords were underdeveloped and had to have an airway built for her. Due to her voice, Parsons was bullied in school.

“I didn’t think that my story was a mental health story until I talked to the people in charge of this [forum],” Parsons said. “I wanted to impact others with my story and help others be more aware.”

Parsons became anxious around anything medical due to the many procedures that she had to have for her airway. Turning to journalism, she found a way to be more positive and became thankful for her life.

“A lot of people are scared to get help but you shouldn’t be,” Parsons said. “You can go so much farther and be a lot happier with yourself once you get the help that you need.”

Shawna Ohman and Gatchel finished by discussing healthy coping skills and information about the counseling center on campus. An open mic session concluded the forum and allowed audience members to ask questions.

“I wanted people to walk away from this recognizing, if they have them, some of the stigmas they may carry because we all do,” Murphy said. “I want people to question where it’s coming from and to activate their humanity and want to help.”

For more information about mental health, check out Active Minds or the counseling center here on campus. The group meets every Monday at 5 p.m.