Popping the stigma on mental health

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*Editor’s Note: 8:25 p.m. Nov. 7 – This story has been edited throughout.

SMU students popped the stigma surrounding mental health by throwing darts at paint balloons on Tuesday on the Clements Hall lawn. Popping balloons with different negative phrases written on them, including “You’re playing the victim” and “It’s in your head,” was a way for students to relieve stress and talk about mental health awareness, organizers said.

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Balloon with "You're playing the victim" written on it. Photo credit: Harriette Hauske
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Balloon with "It's in your head" written on it. Photo credit: Harriette Hauske

“Mental health has always been a big struggle in my life, and it’s now become the biggest joy that I have, knowing what I am and how to deal with it,” event attendee junior Siggy Sigtenhorst said.

Active Minds, a mental health awareness organization at SMU, Psi Chi, the national psychology honorary society, and Student Foundation partnered to create this event, entitled “Pop the Stigma.” The organizers wanted students with mental illness to know that they aren’t alone.

According to a study conducted by the National Alliance On Mental Illness, one in five college students suffer from mental illness, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Gianna Rizzo, the president of Active Minds, explained mental health to the students who participated in throwing darts at the paint balloons.

“Mental health is just the same as any other disease,” Rizzo said. “It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain. It’s a disorder, and it shouldn’t be treated the way that it is in our society.”

The paint balloons were positioned to spell out “valued.” The sign left a positive message, organizers said.

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"Valued" splatter-painted sign. Photo credit: Harriette Hauske

“No matter what feelings you may have or thoughts or stresses from school, you are valued in the end,” president of Psi Chi Samantha Cheung said.

The event was part of SMU’s Values Week. The purpose of the weeklong event is to celebrate and remind students about SMU’s Student Value Statement: “I, as a citizen of the SMU Community, commit myself to upholding the values of intellectual integrity, academic honesty, personal responsibility, and sincere regard and respect for all SMU students, faculty, and staff.”

This year Values Week focuses more on SMU students and getting them involved in multiple ways, Katie Shumway said. Shumway is the president of Student Foundation.

The week at a glance:

Wednesday: Not On My Campus and the Human Rights department invites students to write letters about the recent Title IX guideline rollback, sexual assault on college campuses, DACA, and other issues to elected representatives from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center.

Thursday: Student Foundation encourages students to recommit themselves to the SMU Value Statement by signing their name on a value banner. That event is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Fondren Starbucks. Program Council will continue the banner signing at their Midnight Market event from 10 p.m. to midnight on the Dallas Hall lawn. Enjoy free food, live music and giveaways, including two ACL tickets and Dallas Cowboys tickets.

Saturday: SMU’s Values Week will wrap up at the Values Week Boulevard tent with free Canes chicken, popsicles and stickers.

“This week is a big celebration for everyone to come together and celebrate what it means to be an SMU student,” Shumway said.

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