Frank Warren’s PostSecret Lecture started mental health conversation, let’s continue it
Mental illness is a prevalent issue on college campuses, and it is important to provide adequate resources for all students.
Recently, UMBC’s (seb) presented a lecture by Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret. Warren created PostSecret, “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard,” in 2005. The postcards are posted on Warren’s website, or are used in his books or museum exhibits.
Warren also does lectures on college campuses, which helps open the dialogue about mental health among college students. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “25% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness,” which means that college students need to be aware of not only how to deal with personal issues, but how to cope with those around them.
One of the most valuable ways to help someone with a mental health problem is to make them feel as though their voice is valued. PostSecret, by allowing anyone to anonymously share their thoughts in a creative way, gives everyone a voice.
There are two main mental health resources on UMBC’s campus. University Health Services offers individual counseling at a reduced cost to students and staff. Active Minds, a student organization, “empowers students to change the perception about mental health on college campuses,” according to their website.
Sharde Hoff, the Public Relations Chair for Active Minds, said that the group has sponsored events in the past, such as tear-away flyers with inspirational quotes and a smash-out stigma pumpkin smash. They also plan on organizing several events in the Spring to raise awareness. “Our main goal is for the whole campus to be a safe place free of judgment,” said Hoff.
What if UMBC also had a mental health lounge space, where students would be able to simply wind down in a non-formal, relaxed atmosphere? Counseling requires an appointment and is a one-on-one session, and Active Minds only meets bi-weekly. A mental health lounge space would allow students to have a place where they know they can escape the hustle-bustle of college life.
Most students do not know that UMBC already has a place for that. A raised awareness for it would be beneficial to many students. There currently exists a place on campus for students to experience aromatherapy, massage chairs, hot tea, and music. It’s called the Mind Spa, and is a place to escape the stress of the day and relax, yet it’s hardly ever used because very few people know of its existence despite it being publicized and featured on myUMBC.
What does that say about the accessibility of mental health resources on campus, or how well they are advertised? Mental health is an important issue to consider, since a quarter of college students currently have a mental illness. Even without a specific diagnosable issue, it is still crucial for everyone to care for the mind to avoid being consumed by the stress of college life.
Frank Warren’s PostSecret lecture gave UMBC the opportunity to talk about the mental health of its students, yet most of them still don’t know what they can do to prevent or deal with problems. It is time to change that.