Health Education Services hosted #BreakTheStigma, an event featuring performances by student groups and activities, including a body image photo campaign, in the Healey Family Student Center yesterday as part of an effort to destigmatize mental illness.
The event sought to increase awareness of mental health resources on campus and to challenge the stigmas associated with mental health, according to Laura Marcucci, the health communications specialist and social norms program coordinator of HES.
“Because stigma can be a significant barrier for students engaging in dialogue or seeking help, we hope #BreakTheStigma will create a space to openly promote and celebrate support, conversation, and recovery,” Marcucci said. “During this ‘day party’ celebration, students and loved ones can stand in solidarity around these issues.”
Jennifer Wiggins, a staff clinician and sexual assault specialist in HES who led the #BreakTheStigma event last year, said the event aimed to foster conversation around mental health and other stigmatized issues facing Georgetown students.
“It is our hope that the event not only starts the dialogue for some members of our community, but also serves to normalize dialogue around these topics and celebrate the successes of those who are healing from these issues,” Wiggins wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Wiggins said she hopes the program can ease the intimidation factor for students wanting to seek help.
“The Georgetown community is moving to a better understanding of the importance of overall wellness,” Wiggins wrote. “There are many advocates, allies, activists, and survivors on our campus, however, there is always room for improvement. The community is very open to learning and supporting those impacted by the issues addressed at the #BTS event.”
Mental health advocacy group Active Minds President Victoria Smith (COL ’18) said the club is excited to be a part of the event in order to start a conversation around de-stigmatizing mental health.
“Active Minds is going to be doing a pledge for how you break the stigma, so people can say, you know, ‘I break the stigma by going to Active Minds events,’ or, ‘I break the stigma by posting articles about people talking about their mental health experiences.’”
Dipali Gupta (MSB ’17) said the event helped her discover new services.
“I just walked around the tables and heard people give their spiels … I didn’t know there was a veterans’ society, or [that] different groups like the [Center for Multicultural Equity & Access] group talked about mental health specifically related to them,” Gupta said.
Smith said she thinks the program will have an even bigger impact this year than in previous years, given the new efforts that incorporated more performers and speakers.
“It’s for people to get more information about eating disorders or about like how where they can go deal with mental health issues,” Smith said. “It’s also a celebration of resilience. When you hear people sort of talking about these issues in a positive light, it helps people realize that they can get help. There are others going through some of the same things they’re going through, and there is a community there that’s going to support them.”