Stigmonologues counter detrimental assumptions about mental health

By Lara Becker
Correspondent 

Students share personal stories in an effort to end harmful stereotypes. (Meagan McDowell / Photo Editor)

Co-sponsored by the College’s Psychology Club, Active Minds, the Public Health Communication Club, Tri-Sigma and the Panhellenic Society, the College’s Counseling and Psychological Services Peer Educators presented “Stigmonologues,” an annual event during which students present their personal experiences dealing with the stigma that surrounds mental health.

The phrase “You are not alone” flashed across a projector screen behind the presenters, who spoke on Nov. 5 in the Education Building Room 212. The purpose of Stigmonologues was to empower those who struggle in silence by showcasing the courage of students who may experience similar pain.

Senior communication studies major Catie Gackowski discussed the pride surrounding her bodily scars, which were the results of years battling anxiety, depression and self harm.

“My mental illness doesn’t define me, but I’m damn proud of how relentlessly I fight it,” she said.

Sophomore health and exercise science major Melanie Cohen said that her mental illness was downplayed when people often labeled her as nothing more than just being emotional. This caused Cohen to conceal her illness for 10 years. She encouraged the audience to persevere through their lowest points.

“Grow through what you go through,” Cohen said.

Junior public health major Danielle DeSantis struggled with the disparity between who thought she was “supposed” to be versus who she really was for many years.

“Society doesn’t want to see you crying or telling yourself you’re worthless, but those are some of the things I deal with on a daily basis,” she said.

The presenters shared a common fear that others would perceive them differently after finding out they struggled mental illness.

CAPS Peer Educators aimed to end the stigma of mental illness by simply starting a conversation and creating a support system for those with mental illnesses at the College. Their efforts have certainly paid off with the success of this event and its ability to provide students with a safe space to tell their stories.

“I thought that the event was so empowering and moving,” said Evan Berrios, a sophomore elementary education and English double major. “It really gives people a new perspective on mental illness. This event definitely helps to reduce the stigma because it helps people without mental illness understand the struggles of having a mental illness.”

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