As a Jesuit institution, Fairfield University prides itself on having students who act as “people for others.” On Oct. 12 at 10:30 a.m., students and faculty will have the chance to do so by walking to end the stigma against mental illness. Counseling and Psychological Services has partnered with the Fairfield University Student Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Residence Life to host the event during Mental Health Awareness Week. The walk will start in the traffic circle green, and all are welcome to join. FUSA, NAMI, Residence Life and the Collegiate Health Service Corps will have tables along the route with giveaways and information on mental health. Counseling and Psychological Services will also have a table with information on their services.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions.
“Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment,” NAMI’s website states. “The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it. Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote to stigma.”
In recognition of efforts by NAMI, Congress established Mental Health Awareness Week in 1990 to increase awareness of mental illness. This year, the University will host the walk to end stigma as well as an interactive event that will include student speakers sharing their personal experiences with mental illness.
Kimberly Tappen, Psy.D., the organizer for Mental Health Awareness Day and a licensed psychologist in Counseling and Psychological Services, spoke on how these events will make an impact on the University.
“Because of the stigma that still exists around mental illness and treatments such as therapy and medication,” Tappen explained, “people who are struggling with things such as anxiety or depression can feel alienated or ashamed which prevents them from seeking help that could really improve the quality of their lives.” Tappen continued, “We hope that this event will get the word out to the Fairfield campus community that mental health is just as important as physical health and that there is help available.”
Counseling and Psychological Services is not the only place on campus where students can seek help. FUSA is also available to help students in need.
“I can say that ultimately FUSA always aims to be a resource and open door for all undergraduate students on campus. Danielle [Rice ‘19], myself, our Executive Cabinet and all title-holding FUSA members want each student to feel like they are being heard, they’re equal and are empowered,” elaborated Matthew Marshall ’19, FUSA vice president. “Through keeping the dialogue open and transparent, we hope to shift the barriers that students may face regarding the conversation about mental health and the stigma attached to it.”