Raising awareness for mental illness and erasing the stigma surrounding the issue has become an important topic, especially on a college campus. Three students hope to exemplify that with their honors project on mental health awareness.
Neuroscience major sophomore Brooke Demetri, international relations major sophomore Jenna Meldrum and neuroscience major sophomore Annika Mounts created an honors project featuring plastic body structures to address mental illness awareness and visibility.
The pieces were on display in the MacVittie College Union Lobby and Bailey Hall from April 3 through Friday April 5.
The project’s theme was activism, and with the “Out of the Darkness” walk that was held on Sunday April 7, the students decided to address mental illness because of its prevalence on campus, according to Meldrum.
Before Demetri, Meldrum and Mounts could create the dialogue they desired, the pieces needed to be created. Demetri explained that building the structures required a lot of tape and saran wrap.
“We bought duct tape and saran wrap,” Demetri said in a phone interview. “What we did was have two people … stand in the position of what we wanted the figure to do.”
Mounts described how each part had had to be wrapped separately before they could form the human figure.
“We [made each figure] part by part; so, we did the leg, then the upper leg and then the torso,” Mounts said. “We used ‘Ted the head’ as a mold. He’s a Styrofoam head that we got out of a Bailey display cabinet with permission. Then, we tape the parts back together.”
Mounts further explained how the pieces were meant to stand out and create an emotional response.
“We wanted something shocking and attention-grabbing. I don’t know if our message got across, but they were definitely attention-grabbing,” Mount said. “If someone is feeling down, maybe seeing these creepy things made their day better. It definitely made my day better making them.”
Meldrum explained that, especially on the Geneseo campus, mental health awareness is a topic that needs more attention due to limited access to counselors.
“I know that Geneseo students don’t have enough access to counselors and stuff when we need them. So, hopefully it just raises people’s awareness more about the issue because our whole point was that mental illness isn’t visible,” Meldrum said. “Hopefully it is more visible now, which I think is the big thing.”
Demetri revealed that the stressful college environment could be a big trigger for mental illness.
“It’s important, especially in the college environment,” Demitri said. “All the stresses [going] on with students, like trying to excel in classes, could take a toll on our mental health.”
Mounts emphasized that students lose their support systems once they are away from home and, as displayed by statistics, students suffer higher rates of mental illness upon entering university.
“College students statistically have higher rates of anxiety and depression from a combination of factors, [including] being away from your support system,” Mounts said.
While mental illness may affect a large population, it does not have a defined face. Demetri stressed that mental illness affects all people, regardless of how they define themselves.
“We wanted it to show that we shouldn’t be afraid to address something that can be very sensitive to talk about,” Demetri said. “Mental illness doesn’t discriminate against race, gender, ethnicity, culture or anything [else], so these structures were kind of like a physique.”
Meldrum highlighted that anyone struggling with mental illness is never alone, which is why the conversation needs to start.
“I feel to me it usually seems like no one is going through [mental illnesses] but realistically a lot of people are going through it. So, it’s important to think about.”