By: Adam Oppegaard, Contributing Writer Photographer: Lynne DeLade
On Thursday, Feb. 1, Civic Scholars Kyla Moutenot (‘18), a Neuroscience major with a triple minor in Public Health, Biology and French, and Haviland Atha-Simonton (‘18), a Theatre Arts major with an Arts Administration and Applied Performance minor, helped spread awareness about mental health through their senior civic project titled Beyond the Stigma. When asked about why they chose this as their topic, Atha-Simonton said, “I chose this topic for my Senior Civic project because I think the amount of stress and pressure that is put on college students (mentally, physically, emotionally, and sometimes fiscally) is often overlooked.” She added, “We are expected to be perfect well-oiled machines and deal with all of it at once.”
Moutenot explained her motives were quite similar, “Through previous volunteer work, I noticed there was a strong stigma held against the mental health community. This inspired me to raise awareness about this stigma to bring hope and better treatment to both patients and medical staff.” Moutenot added, “I feel that in psychiatry nowadays, treatment focuses more so on the distribution of medication and less about the human within the patient.”
Both Moutenot and Atha-Simonton wanted to show that college students face mental health issues and that there is a huge stigma around treatment for these issues. The goal of the event was to educate Drew about that stigma and to get the campus community more involved. Atha-Simonton stated, “This event is to show that college students face mental health issues because we are only human, and there are ways we can help ourselves and others to maintain a healthy mind while dealing with all of the components of our busy lives.” Atha-Simonton added, “Putting the event together was exciting because we always found new supporters and new components to add!”
Students attended the event for a variety different reasons. Mariela Rodriguez (’19) said that she attended because “I’ve been very stressed and was hoping this event would help.” The event offered a great message, which Emily Dzioba (’18) summarized perfectly saying, “It is important to have open, frank conversations about mental health.” Mikaela Simon (’19) said she “learned about the resources both on and off campus, and about organizations that are there to ensure that people don’t have to suffer in silence.”
The Mental Health Players, a part of the Mental Health Association of N.J., performed two skits along with Mel Dikert (’21), Serena Rosenblatt (’18) and Maliik Hall (’19). The first skit centered around a girl with severe social anxiety and the second skit focused on two roommates, one of whom had a depressive disorder. The skits were quite well done, seeming believable even with minimal props in the scenes.
Overall, the event was a success. The turnout of both students and faculty was bigger than either Atha-Simonton or Moutenot had expected. Many of the attendees thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were happy they attended the event and had the opportunity to learn new things about mental health.