We wrapped up our first week of this tour with the gorgeous and historic University of Virginia. We lucked out, too, as the rain cleared up JUST in time for us to set up outside and share the display with thousands of students as they walked through the lawn.
Students at UVA were curious about the display starting before we even got fully set up for the day—the moment we started unloading backpacks we had questions from several groups of students passing by on their way to their early morning classes about what was going on. One girl spoke with me for several minutes about the program. I explained what we were here for and encouraged her to come see everything once it was fully set up later in the morning. She said “Thanks for being here, this kind of stuff is really important. I’ll definitely come back.” Several hours later I saw her again—only this time she had brought a whole group of friends to come see the display as well. We always love seeing the cascading effect starting a conversation can have.
Throughout the rest of the day we were joined by some special guests such as Lauren Anderson from the Josh Anderson Foundation (who helped make this day of Send Silence Packing at UVA a possibility) and David Anderson of Survivor to Hero. David led some free yoga sessions for anyone that wished to participate, and it was a great example of a specific tool that you can use to stay mentally (and physically!) fit.
Everywhere we go we find tools that people have developed to handle their mental health in different ways. We hear so many varying things that people do—some people listen to certain songs, some people write or draw, some people use physical releases such as sports or plain old exercise. All of these are fantastic options, but the important part is finding the tools that work for you. Your mental health is just about as personal as you can get, so it’s crucial to find the right tools that fit for you. Tell us some of the ways that you stay mentally healthy—whether it’s something you do to keep ahead or something that helps you catch back up after you’re feeling down. We’ll share some of your tools in a future post and hopefully we can all learn some new tricks and learn a little more about our mental health.
We started the Fall 2012 tour at Howard University in Washington DC. The weather was wet all day, but the rain didn’t stop us from having a day full of education and inspiration.
Howard University had the honor of having Chamique Holdsclaw speak at their display. Chamique is Active Minds’ national spokesperson and former WNBA player that has struggled with mental health issues. She speaks around the country to share her story and inspire others. Her voice is important because she helps to erase the stigma associated with mental health, especially in sports and the African American community.
During her speech she talked about feelings of guilt and anger paired with overwhelming feelings of being alone while she was struggling with clinical depression. When she found the help she needed, she began to realize the power of hope and persistence. Something that stood out as I was listening to her speak was Chamique saying that she knows that “It’s okay to tell people I’m weak and I need help.” It’s important to remember that it is okay to ask for help when you need it and to rely on family, friends, and other resources in your life when you are struggling. Chamique reminds us of the power we have when we works together to help others and ourselves.
Howard University’s women’s basketball team attended the speech, and were able to talk with Chamique afterward and get pictures and autographs. It is great to see students interacting with someone they view as a hero and to hear the journey of someone they admire. The students were also able to participate in a documentary that Chamique is being filmed in. Howard’s Active Minds president, Marshele Bryant, was interviewed for the documentary and described the Send Silence Packing event as a huge success for the campus. Most students that I spoke with had one thing to say: how can I help? There were several students interested in joining Howard’s Active Minds chapter and learning more about what they can do to erase the stigma on mental health. Seeing this kind of response at a Send Silence Packing event shows great things for the future of Howard University and mental health on their campus.
This was a great start to our Fall tour, and we are ready for the next six weeks! We are reaching a whole new region with this tour and we’re excited to spread the word in the south. We are going as far west as Texas, and we’ll be finishing the tour at the National Mental Health on Campus Conference in Orlando, Florida. We look forward to sharing our message and Send Silence Packing with new colleges and universities. Let the journey begin.