(Photo: Google Images)
On Tuesday, Feb. 21, RUSGA and the Institute on the Common Good co-sponsored an event entitled “Continuing the Dialogue on Mental Health.” Over fifty members of the Regis community attended the event in Claver 410, which was a follow up to the talk “Taking Care of Our Friends, and Ourselves” given by Dr. Abby Gosselin of the philosophy department in response to the mental health related tragedies that occurred on campus last semester.
The evening’s speakers included University Provost Dr. Janet Houser, psychology professor Dr. Brian Drwecki, recent Regis graduate Lauren Counterman, and Dr. Loretta Notareschi of the music department. Each of the speakers shared stories of their own experiences of mental illness.
The first speaker, Dr. Houser, emphasized that mental illnesses should be regarded in the same way as physical illness and should not be stigmatized. In regards to her experience of depression, she stated, “These are diseases, they run in families, they are illnesses. The chemicals in my brain do not work the way the chemicals in a normal person’s brain works. I have to take medication to keep those chemicals working correctly. About twenty years ago, we hit on just the right combination, and I’ve been effectively treated since then.” For Houser, one of the most important things we can do on our campus is to reduce shame around mental illnesses.
Dr. Drwecki stated, “This is a time that we in this community can begin to ask the question of ‘How do we create a liberated social environment that nurtures all people, all types of personalities, and all diversity of mental life? [. . .] If we do nothing, we have to admit that we are participating in an oppressive system. By doing nothing, we are complicit.”
Following the speakers, there was a discussion portion in which students and faculty asked panelists questions regarding mental health and what we can do on campus. Questions ranged from what one should do if their insurance company drops coverage of medication to how to support loved ones with mental illnesses.
Senior neuroscience major Veronica Valenzuela shared, “I felt compelled to come to this event because of my personal experience within my family of mental problems and issues. Hearing more stories is very powerful and can help me understand where I can help in that process with family members. Tonight I learned that even when we experience darkness, we have the capacity for brighter days.”
The RUSGA Health Awareness Committee and the Institute of the Common Good are committed to de-stigmatizing mental illness and plan on hosting more community events following Spring Break. At Regis, some of the confidential resources we have include the Office of Counseling and Personal Development and professional staff members at University Ministry. If you find yourself or a friend in a crisis situation, you can call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255).
Maggie Lacy Staff Reporter