De-Stigmatizing Mental Illness, One Carnival Game at a Time
A live mariachi band, a dozen red-and-white-striped proverbial carnival tents, and a blue sky provide an unlikely backdrop for discussing one’s mental health. The “Mental Health Carnival," held at Santa Monica College’s main campus this Tuesday, November 13, provided SMC students with an opportunity to discuss and learn about mental health in an environment that SMC student and Director of the SMC Sustainability Club, Brooke Harrington, feels is “fun, relaxing, and interactive.” When asked what inspired her to attend the carnival, Harrington replies, “I feel like mental health and the environment are intrinsically tired. I know I get depressed whenever I hear about different environmental issues going on, so I think it’s really important to spread mental-health awareness, and this kind of event is perfect for that.”
Active Minds, the nonprofit organization which orchestrated the carnival, was founded by Alison Malmon, who decided to dedicate her time to combating the stigma and lack of understanding that surrounds mental illness after her brother committed suicide, in 2000. Her efforts were realized as a nonprofit that operates on a national level, with chapters found on more than 600 college campuses across the country, including SMC.
The president of Active Minds’ SMC chapter, Monica Salazar states, “This organization has been around for over 10 years. The ultimate goal is to give students a support system, while providing access to mental health resources, and destigmatizing mental illness in general.”
In addition to simply increasing the conversation surrounding mental health, the organization is interested in taking concrete steps to promote mental health awareness by “getting the crisis hotline number on the back of student i.d cards, as well as on plaques in bathroom stalls on campus," Salazar states. “If you want to get involved, please reach out out to us on social media, via instagram or facebook, or come to our next meeting. They’re every tuesday in room 217, in Drescher Hall," Active Minds’ Vice-President, John James, encourages. Between gun violence, wildfires, and fast-approaching final exams, mental health and any resources that promote mental-wellness are topics of timeless relevance to SMC students.