This week, March 18-23, the LCC community had a chance to participate in an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of mental health and promote holistic wellbeing. The event was organized by Student Life at LCC and was open to faculty and students. Margarita Pavlovič, Vice President for the Student Life office, talked about the Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing Week, and shared her hopes regarding this project and its future.
To understand why Student Life created this event, I would like to present some background information about mental health in general. Statistics show that the issues associated with poor mental health have been on the rise. There are certain factors named as reasons for poor mental health such as technology addiction, lack of social support networks, and lack of resilience. The Student Life office has been looking at creating an annual focus week at LCC to raise awareness about mental health issues. This is the first time we have launched the Mental Health Awareness week, and we hope that next year we will be able to increase the amount of people participating and contributing to this event. We need to be able to take care of our mental and physical well being, spot symptoms of stress and anxiety, and know the techniques necessary to cope with those symptoms. We would also like to raise awareness about the availability of resources, both on and off campus that can be helpful to students.
Each day we had one or two sessions on campus. The week started with sharing cups of herbal stress-relieving tea and continued with a practical workshop on Mindfulness: The Art of Being by Gina Levickeinė. Gina is a part of the Psychology Department at LCC and a certified Mindfulness trainer. It was amazing to have her involved in the workshop and teach how mindfulness practices can help create mental space to respond better to life’s challenges and deal more effectively with stress. On Tuesday and Thursday, we had Wellness Testing where everyone was welcome to come in for a body composition test, assess eight areas of holistic wellness by completing an online assessment, and get recommendations on how to improve based on their results. Not only did this event involve our professors from LCC, but we also hosted several guest speakers as well. We know that addiction and mental health go hand and hand. For the session on drug use, we had a few people from outside LCC share their stories about how drugs have affected their lives. We also had a certified doctor, the head of a rehab center, who could explain the effects of drugs from both personal and medical perspectives. In the evenings there were some movie sessions followed by discussions, as well as pilates and yoga sessions with certified instructors.
I am the member of the Association of Christians in Student Development (ACSD) and part of their professional development includes weekly or monthly webinars on different topics. The webinar Responding to Escalating Mental Health Needs with Dr. Connie Horton was extremely relevant to the Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing Week. Although a lot of information was based on the U.S. statistics regarding mental health issues, a lot of it was still applicable to our context. We discussed reasons why students have such poor mental health and provided practical applications to equip professionals working with students to respond to their needs. The discussion revolved around how we as educators can be role models for students when it comes to caring about mental health and what we can do to help students. In order to help our students to understand and develop resilience, we have to talk about how technology affects our mental health and make sure students have social support networks, people they can talk to. This was an important webinar that gave us practical applications of how to help students and bring more awareness to mental health.
My main hope is for students to leave the sessions with a realization that it is acceptable to talk about emotions and mental health and to seek support. In terms of future plans for this event, I am looking forward to more cooperation with the Psychology Department at LCC next year. We would like to show students that they are the ones who can be raising awareness, educating each other and providing support.