Last Wednesday and Thursday, mental health peers, psychologists, and other Counseling and Psychological Services staff members set up tables, signs, and booths near Storke Tower and the Chem lawn, respectively, as part of the on-going “#SaySomething” campaign. The campaign, which was launched in 2014, seeks to bring much-needed attention and awareness to the issue of suicide, which currently the second leading cause of death among teenagers.
The campaign itself is designed to combat the stigma-induced silence surrounding mental health issues by encouraging all University of California, Santa Barbara community members, including students and faculty, to be vocal if they themselves are struggling or if they see someone else struggling.
Kailey Crabtree, a fourth year psychology major and mental health peer who helped host the event, explained that “so much of the time, people are afraid to say something and it just gets brushed under the rug, so we just want to keep the conversation of mental health open.”
One of the biggest hurdles in overcoming mental health issues is that they are by nature invisible to the perception of others. That, coupled with the stigma and misunderstanding some people experience when they do choose to speak out, leads to an even more isolating, debilitating state of mind that is in effect self-reproducing. In an effort to better reach out and normalize the experiences of those who struggle with mental health-related issues, CAPS has created events such as these to provide a fun, educational, and most importantly, open atmosphere.
Tables were set up with supplies needed for students and faculty to make their very own “mindfulness jars.” The purpose of this project is to learn how to set one’s mind at ease by watching the glitter swirl around the jar and eventually settle to the bottom. Though the activity is simple enough, the real motive behind interactive projects such as these is to encourage conversations about mental health in a more casual, non-threatening atmosphere.
“Being out in the open, visible, doing hands on projects gets people interactive with us,” Crabtree explained. “Things like this are doing a good job of getting our services out there and what we want to accomplish out there.”
Some people have criticized CAPS in the past for not being as accessible as they could be, but it is evident that the university has taken that criticism to heart.
“This year they took on twice as many students with many diverse interests, so we now have 21 mental health peers and we each picked an outreach program,” Crabtree said. “We’re hoping to reach a wider variety of people this year.”
Proactive approaches to serving the community appear to be doing a good job of drawing students in.
“I was just biking by with my friend from class, going back home, and we saw it so we’re like ‘oh let’s see what it is,’” said Pranati Shah, a second year biology major. “I always see CAPS doing something or the other, I have them on my org’s Instagram and they always have something going on so I feel like that makes them really accessible.”
In addition, the event provided information about resources available to everyone concerned about their safety or someone else’s safety. When it comes to mental health, one of the most vital things anyone can do is to be out in the open and talking about it, and it appears CAPS has committed themselves to undertake this rather daunting challenge.
“It’s so important to be involved and keep that conversation open and not really shy away from that topic because it’s something that we all struggle with,” Crabtree said.