Mental health awareness kicks off next week

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Students relax while petting dogs during the 2017 mental health awareness month. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

Events next week will raise awareness for mental health disorders and highlight the resources the University of Dallas provides to help students facing this issue.

This is the third year UD has organized Mental Health Awareness Week, which will take place from Sept. 17-21 and is sponsored by the Counseling Center and Student Affairs.

UD staff counselors Doug Scott and Vanessa Garcia have organized the events around the theme, “Towards Wholeness.”

Scott described the purpose of Mental Health Awareness Week as a way to help remove the stigma that surrounds mental health difficulties.

In the past, an entire month was dedicated to raise awareness, but this semester it was changed to a week-long event in order to get more attention from the student body, according to Scott.

Scott believes that mental health disorders are akin to physical illnesses, but that a social stigma surrounding mental health keeps people from seeking treatment.

“If you have the flu, you go right next door,” Scott said.

He expressed his frustration that this stigma surrounding mental help keeps people from seeking treatment because they feel ashamed of their illnesses.

“They won’t [put off seeking treatment] for a cold, but they will for that. That’s exactly what we’re trying to address,” Scott said.

The theme “Towards Wholeness” is formulated around Scott and Garcia’s philosophy for counseling students at UD.

“The idea that Vanessa and I really believe is that if humans are called towards wholeness — we have mind, body, spirit … we believe that if we are to have that kind of wholeness, the mental piece is important,” Scott said.

The week is packed full of opportunities to raise awareness for mental health at UD.

“Each day is just a different activity for the students to become aware of mental health, for them to know that it’s not a stigma, and it’s not something we have to be hush-hush about,” Garcia said.

The week will kick off with the 5 p.m. Mass on Monday Sept. 17, which will be offered up for the cause.

On Wednesday of that week, Scott and Garcia will give a talk entitled, “Towards Wholeness: A Mental Health Exploration.” Chick Fil A will be provided for all attendees.

The UD Solidarity group will start up again for the year that same Wednesday from 4-5 p.m. in Farrell Hall 204.

That Thursday, students are invited to play with puppies in the Haggar foyer from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On Friday, Scott and Garcia are inviting the campus to participate in a social media blackout. They encourage students to avoid social media and wear black all day.

“We know [through] research now that social media actually contributes to a negative mental health,” Scott said. “What we mean by [the blackout] is, still use the internet to do the things you need to do for class, but not Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tinder.”

Scott stated that one of the main reasons for the week is to raise awareness for resources, such as the counseling center, that are available to struggling students on the UD campus.

The counseling center is for both undergraduates and graduate students, free of charge. The counseling center especially deals with issues like anxiety, depression and relationships.

“Our job is not to be parents, our job is not to be spiritual directors,” Scott said. “In other words, our job is not to be Fr. Thomas More [Barba], we’re not Nick [Lopez]. We may have an intersection of spirituality that is played out a little bit in the counseling, but that’s not the focus.”

“Our job is to identify what the client’s goals are for themselves, and then help them brainstorm ways to achieve that,” Scott added.

Scott holds a master’s degree in clinical social work and pastoral ministry. He has been with the counseling center since 2015. Garcia holds a master’s in counseling and joined the counseling center this year.

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