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Saint Mary’s hosts mental health awareness week

| Monday, September 7, 2015

In an effort to increase mental health awareness and foster a sense of unity on campus, Saint Mary’s will host several events this week as part of its Support a Belle, Love a Belle (SABLAB) initiative.

Junior Mary Joy Dingler, co-chair of the Student Government Association’s Social Concerns Committee, said she and her co-chair junior Jenna Wozniak collaborated to schedule both new events and continue successful ones.

“Jenna and I worked together all summer planning this week,” Dingler said. “The student panel and guest speaker are traditions for SABLAB, so we just had to organize those. Apart from that, Jenna and I just tried to think of events that would bring girls together.”

Dingler said she can personally attest to the transformative power of SABLAB, as she took part in years prior.

“I remember participating in events my freshman year and loving everything about it,” she said. “It brings girls together in a unique way and under a different type of circumstance.”

According to Dingler, students of all ages can benefit from this week as they bond with other Belles and gain understanding of mental health issues.

“I think it is something upperclassmen look forward to every year, but I think it is also important for the new students on campus,” Dingler said. “During the first few weeks of school, students are scared, nervous and homesick, and SABLAB brings them together during a tough time.”

Wozniak said she also encourages all students to take active roles in SABLAB, because the health and wellness of Saint Mary’s students is a priority that must be regarded with the utmost seriousness — especially by those who do not suffer firsthand.

“Students who are not directly influenced by these issues are not always aware of them,” Wozniak said. “SABLAB week shines a light on mental health issues and acknowledges that Saint Mary’s is a safe community that wants to provide an environment for its students to flourish in every way possible.”

According to Wozniak, students will gain new knowledge of the counseling services available to them, which will help them support fellow Belles.

“It is important that students who are affected by mental health issues know they have resources available to them to help them succeed during their time here,” Wozniak said. “Alone, we are capable of doing great things, but together we are invincible.”

Dingler said SABLAB incorporates events for everyone, with activities ranging from a presentation by two women featured in “The Hunting Ground,” a CNN documentary released this past spring that highlights the issues of sexual assault on college campuses.

Other events include a visit from the South Bend Humane Society, which will bring four dogs and a rabbit to campus. Dingler said she is especially looking forward to a student panel whose members will openly discuss mental health issues and the importance of a good support system.

“We will hear about a variety of different issues from girls with different experiences,” Dingler said. “I think it will be a great opportunity for girls to be educated by students with experiences that they might be able to relate to on some level or another.”

Students should feel comfortable and accepted at Saint Mary’s, and SABLAB is the perfect way to ensure that happens, Dingler said.

“I hope students walk away from each event knowing in their hearts that no matter who they are, they are the Belles of Saint Mary’s, and by coming to this school they are part of a sisterhood that will never falter,” Dingler said. “I hope they become more knowledgeable about mental health and make connections that will only strengthen the support system here at Saint Mary’s.”

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

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