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Student Diversity Board’s speaker series kicks off with mental health awareness discussion

| Friday, October 9, 2020

Saint Mary’s Student Diversity Board (SDB) held its first installment of its annual speaker series Thursday with guest speakers senior Brianna Kinyanjui and alumna Hannah Simpson. Their interview about mental health and stigmas was pre-recorded and presented in Stapleton Lounge.

Kinyanjui said discussion is key in reducing stereotypes about student mental health.

“This event highlights the ways in which mental health really impacts us all,” she said. “As college students, most of us are already on a pretty rigorous schedule. When you add in clubs, athletics, jobs and social life on top of that, it’s pretty easy to assume that many students may struggle to balance everything all the time. It’s important to realize that everyone has their own mental health journey, and no one’s is better than anyone else’s. I think we really made sure to emphasize that with our talk.”

Simpson said the talk focused on inclusivity of all experiences.

 “[The interview addressed] important topics from different angles,” she said. “Sometimes we tend to shy away from the hard topics such as mental health in the BIPOC communities, but it is important we have these conversations to uplift and validate others and start working towards raising awareness in these communities.”

Both Belles discussed their experience with mental health during their time at Saint Mary’s and shared examples of resources students can utilize to get the support they need. Kinyanjui created a club called Active Minds with the express purpose of providing students with support for mental health problems. 

She and Simpson also discussed the new telehealth resource SMC Care. While neither have personally experienced the service, they promoted it by acknowledging how it has helped their friends. 

SMC Care was created as an additional resource to counselors at the Health and Counseling Center because the demand for counselors is very high and students who need help aren’t always able to get an appointment, Kinyanjui said.

Simpson said that even when counselors are unavailable, it is always important to reach out to someone and not internalize suffering. 

Simpson added that other resources, such as professors, friends and administration are good to take advantage of during students’ time at the College. She referenced individuals such as Student Success program director Diane Fox, dean of student academic services Karen Chambers and her own professors as important people who helped her structure her classes and assignments in a manageable way so she could focus on her mental health and not get behind or overwhelmed.

Simpson also gave self-care tips regarding social media usage.

“Take time for yourself,” she said. “Take a break from social media unapologetically. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You deserve a couple moments to yourself.” 

Kinyanjui suggested using personal apps such as Head Space to keep track of mental health and learn to understand why some days are worse than others, which is useful in later learning how to avoid things that may unnecessarily make life harder. 

“I hope students understand that it’s important to be kind to yourself, especially during this time where everyone is probably very burnt out and we’ve still got some weeks to go,” Kinyanjui said. “Give yourself grace, and reach out to others when you’re not feeling the greatest. Also, stop telling yourself that others have it worse or harder than you; everyone’s journey is different, and all of them are valid.”

Event attendee and senior Fran Monsisvais said she feels SBD’s speaker series is important because it educates students on how issues impact those with a variety of backgrounds.

“Not everyone comes from the same background nor do people understand that,” she said. “It’s problematic to assume everyone starts at the same point and everyone is going to have the same ‘college experience.’ We’re in a day and age where diversity and inclusion are just the beginning. It’s no longer about adding minorities into the mix, but now we’re educated and being educated on why it’s the right thing to do.”

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