Sabres end the stigma: mental health awareness week returns to Marian

Emma Lewandowski, Co-Editor in Chief

“End the Stigma” week, occurring March 16 – 21, is an on-campus collection of events completely dedicated to educating, spreading awareness, and ending “the stigma on mental health,” according to Macey Kniess, one of the organizers spearheading the events. Along with Kniess, Brock Weston and Grace Howe came together when they “noticed a need for a greater level of mental health education and acceptance on campus,” says Kniess. 

In partnering with organizations on campus such as Art Club and SPECTRUM, and groups within the Fond du Lac community like Prevent Suicide Fond du Lac, Kniess, Weston and Howe are planning for a week packed with enriching events. From self-care day on Tuesday to resilience yoga on Thursday and more events in between, these events and the collaboration that allows for them will hopefully “bring awareness in different areas of campus and community to help end the stigma around mental health,” says Weston. 

With the positivity that accompanies such an encouraging event, though, also comes the heaviness of the topic “mental health” in itself. Because of the relevant and serious nature of the subject, this event’s organizers find it important to show students that not only is it “okay to ask for help,” says Howe, but also that “it is completely ok, to not be ok,” says Weston. 

In the dynamic college environment especially, we all can get caught up in the confusing, complex environment that may easily overwhelm even the most mentally grounded individual. “The financials, the grades, the social life, and the ever-looming question, ‘What are your plans after you graduate?’” All of these things are heavy; mentally, physically, and spiritually,” says Weston, echoing thconstant battle we as college students face in managing this balancing act.  

Despite these responsibilities in the college environment that each of us inevitably face, the stigma that surrounds mental health still persists today and deters students from seeking help due to guilt or shame, or a combination. These events are even more vital then, according to all three student organizers, because of the importance of caring for ourselves in the midst of these challenging life changes and struggles. 

When asked about the extent of the importance of educating and raising awareness, Weston says, “It’s priceless. There is no cost-benefit analysis needed because it is so vital.” Connecting with others and being encouraged to reach out is an essential step in destroying this stigma that surrounds mental health, so Kniess says also to “Please reach out for resources or talk to a friend… Sabres don’t fight the stigma alone.”  

Yet another beneficial aspect of the awareness week is this idea that we are not alone, “in the fight, or in the feelings,” says Weston. It is in realizing this and subsequently coming together as individuals that students are more “able to help themselves and have the tools to help people around them,” he says. 

So, while “there is still a stigma around mental health,” the responsibility falls on us, as “it is up to us to change that,” says Howe. Organizing these events that encourage having difficult conversations in a comfortable environment is crucial to getting rid of the stigma completely. It is important to remember too that, “this topic is so important every day of the year. Keep the conversation going,” says Weston. 

“End the Stigma” mental health awareness week is a great opportunity for students to learn about mental health, connect with each other, and ultimately come away with a greater understanding of how to cope in the complex college environment. All students are encouraged to attend these on-campus events, and in Kniess’s words, “Help end the stigma every week, not just this one.” 

Throughout the week, along with attending events you can use the hashtag #SabresEndtheStigma on social media to further spread awareness!