Suicide is a serious matter and often times we can’t grasp what goes through someone’s head when they make such a grave action. Simultaneously, there are moments when people feel isolated, as if nobody understands them or what they might be going through, be it family trouble, mental illness or anything that might be left unspoken. In his upcoming lecture Pablo Campos will give us an idea of how to provide greater sympathy and understanding. In addition, Campos lecture hopes to cover some of the opportunities and help people in need can receive.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Pablo Campos, a survivor of attempted suicide will be giving a lecture for Active Minds at 7:30 p.m. in Rocky 200. This lecture is brought to Vassar’s campus by a collaboration between The Listening Center (TLC), the ALANA Center, the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Office of Health Education. Campos has suffered from anxiety and depression and hopes to use these experiences to help guide the lecture.
Born in Virginia to Guatemalan parents, Campos had to balance belonging to two separate cultures while struggling with his mental health. Without a healthy way of coping, Campos developed a substance abuse problem and made an attempt on his life at the end of high school. He then struggled in facilities for depression and addiction treatments with little success. Eventually, he was diagnosed with ADHD, which allowed him to reconfigure his method of treatment.
Since those days, Campos has become a public speaker, advocating for Active Minds, and is almost eight years sober. Because of all that he had to endure, Campos’s lecture offers a great opportunity to hear from someone who has been able to overcome such pain.
Explaining how Campos’s experience can help those struggling with mental health issues, Director of Health Education Renee Pabst said, “Our hope that students who feel alone in their struggle with mental health issues, whichever those issues may be and especially around depression/suicidal realize they are not alone, that there are services and support for them. The speakers from Active Minds have been at the point where they felt alone and no hope and their stories demonstrate that things will get better through seeking support and counseling.”
One of the subjects Campos will be talking about is the effects of being the child of immigrants had on his mental health. Speaking about the effect this can have, Director of Psychological Services at Baldwin Wendy Freedman, Ph.D., said, “For students from marginalized backgrounds, navigating the complexities of an oppressive society can contribute to significant stress which at times leads to psychological struggle. The Counseling Service staff works to help reduce the stigma of mental health concerns so that all students can access support.”
Active Minds is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the destigmatization of mental health among students to give them the empowerment to seek help when they need it. There are numerous chapters on campuses nationwide advocating open conversations about these subjects. The organization was founded by Alison Malmon in 2003 after her brother committed suicide. Created with the intent to let students feel safe when bringing up topics of mental health like depression and anxiety, Active Minds has expanded itself over the last 13 years in the fight to benefit the lives of young adults across the country. Recently, the organization has focused on researching the mental health of college students of color, a demographic that hasn’t received a significant amount of attention in the past.
In an article from December 2012 on The Huffington Post, Founder and Executive Director Alison Malmon, speaking on the necessity discussions on mental health are communally, remarked, “[W]e need to start talking about these things not because of a lone man who caused unbelievable pain to our nation, but because one in four American adults live with a diagnosable mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress every single day. And we need to start talking about it because of the approximately 100 people in our country every day who feel so hopeless and helpless that they take their own lives leaving families and communities in anguish.”
“We hope that mental health awareness events do numerous things,” Pabst said about the importance of safe spaces for such a serious topic. “[We hope it] takes away the stigma of mental health issues, aids students in seeking services and support–especially students who may have other barriers in reaching out for help, [and] aid students in general raise awareness to the community on how to provide a safe and supportive environment for our students.”
Here at Vassar, there are many options available to students. Lectures like Campos’s are happening all the time on campus. Resources like TLC and CARES give students the opportunity to speak to someone non-judgmentally and anonymously about any problems they feel might be affecting them. Within the Office of Health Education are wellness peer educators who can provide more information and help on health and wellness topics.
Wellness peer educator and one of the organizers of this lecture Otuwe Anya ’18 said about the benefits these lectures can have, “I believe that hearing stories and associating an individual with a mental health issue does help demystify it. It brings a separation between a mental illness as a foreign intangible concept to become no longer something but someone. Therefore, changing the scope of understanding and approach. Thus, knowing someone who deals with these issues makes it more real, and it also may give strength to individuals dealing with similar issues to seek assistance.”
Despite the amount of resources that college campuses have or can refer students to, there is an overwhelming stigma that the words “mental health” and “depression” have. In many ways, these phrases have a great deal of vulnerability in them, a part of us that we cannot control and therefore see as a weakness. But no one can be happy if they’re not healthy. The more these things are ignored, the worse their problems become. Mental health is a constant focus in our everyday lives and it deserves the attention. Many are afraid of asking for help because of the perceived repercussions, but trying to get better is really the only way to actually get better.
Stating the overall effect discussions such as Campos’s can have on Vassar’s students, Freedman said, “Speaking openly about these experiences reduces stigma and shame, and hopefully encourages students to reach out for support. Survivors can also lend hope to students who are struggling, helping them to recognize that things can get better with support and time.”