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NAMI organizes week to advocate well-being

| Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Notre Dame chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is sponsoring its inaugural Irish Peace of MiND event this week, an event former NAMI president Maggie Skoch said is meant to be a parallel to Irish State of MiND, which is in the fall.

“The goal of this week, in particular, is partially bridging out from Irish State of MiND, which is very much focused on mental illness,” Skoch said. “We thought we needed to engage in conversation about mental well-being as a whole in addition to that.”

Ally Zimmer, the incoming NAMI president, said she thinks of the spring event as working toward prevention and maintenance, whereas Irish State of MiND in the fall is for raising awareness.

To start the week off on Monday, NAMI will take part in the Tell Me About Your Day (TMAYD) movement started at MIT. Participants will wear rubber bracelets in an effort to foster communication.

“The purpose of the bracelet is to, one, serve as a reminder to the one wearing it to ask people and, two, if someone sees you wearing that bracelet, it shows that you’re open to having a conversation,” Skoch said. “The goal is to move further toward a culture of care and concern where we actually answer the question, ‘How are you?’ honestly.”

TMAYD bracelets can be picked up from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. outside of DeBartolo Hall and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. outside North and South Dining Halls on Monday.

Also on Monday, a “Mental Health and Me” student panel will be held at 7 p.m. in 210 DeBartolo Hall. Zimmer said five students will be speaking on various topics related to mental illness, health and well-being.

“I think the student panel is a pretty important event because it’s hearing from people’s peers what they think about mental health, especially at Notre Dame or in their own lives and experiences,” she said.

There will be free massages Tuesday in the Coleman-Morse student lounge from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, a free yoga class will be sponsored by the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being in the third-floor conference room of St. Liam’s Hall. Immediately following, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., puppies from the Heartland Small Animal Rescue will be at Fieldhouse Mall for students to play with.

That evening, at 7 p.m., short films from the Mental Health Channel — an online network that makes documentaries on mental well-being — will be shown in the Carey Auditorium in Hesburgh Library.

“I picked the videos out to have a balance between issues directly related to mental illness and things more that anybody can use to make sure they’re mentally healthy,” Zimmer said.

Throwback Thursday will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Breen-Phillips Hall. According to Skoch, the evening is meant to “hearken back to our childhood.” Chick-fil-a nuggets and other “kids food” will be available during a screening of “Mulan.” 

To close out the week, free berries will be available at Fieldhouse Mall from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday. Various administrators and student government members who work to promote student well-being will be available during this time for a “meet and greet.”

Skoch and Zimmer said they hope the event will promote conversation and help students realize that mental health isn’t just something to be concerned about if you have a mental illness.

“In my work and in the work that has been done, we hear a lot of stories from students,” Skoch said. “We hear good things we hear not so good things, and some of the common things that comes up is students feel like they’re they only ones going through something. They are having to maintain an outward picture of perfection while inside they might not be doing so well or might even be falling apart.

“Often, the conversation is stopped when it’s either, ‘You have a mental illness or you don’t have a mental illness,’ when really everyone exists on a spectrum of well-being. You can be diagnosed with a mental illness and be incredibly mentally well and you can not be diagnosed with a mental illness and be incredibly not mentally well.”

Zimmer said it was important for students to have “better consciousness of their own health,” especially at Notre Dame.

“My hope is students talk about mental health a little more and about the best ways to pursue it, how they can take ownership of their own mental health, especially because at Notre Dame it’s tempting to push mental health to be a lower priority when grades and activities and leadership and all those things can really get in the way and become the focus,” Zimmer said. “There has to be a balance to make sure you’re not running yourself into the ground.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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