By Alexandra Jennerjahn, Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) – Record numbers of college students are seeking mental health treatments. This week is Mental Health Awareness week, and Syracuse University along with their Student Association and peer educators, made an effort to provide resources and events to students who may be struggling.
“When I hear ‘mental health’ I think of how a person feels in their own head. How they feel functioning on a day to day basis,” said Alexandra Alfieri, SU peer educator.
Alfieri works in health promotion in the Barnes Center of the Arch, and believes that there is stigma that surrounds conversations about mental health, and as a peer educator, she feels it’s her job to help break that stigma.
“There’s so much to it that not everyone understands. Our peer educators just focus on what the student feels and ignore every stigma that has been impeded on us,” Alfieri said. “We focus on choosing to do activities that promote your own happy well being.”
Alfieri adds that she thinks it’s important for students to know about the resources SU provides on campus.
“If I’m talking to someone in an academic building and they’re talking about their stress, I’ll tell them about the resources on campus and it’s never an intention but I use that background knowledge that I have to really let them know,” Alfieri said.
Some of these resources include mental health counseling, group therapy, exercise classes, mind spas and pet therapy.
Mackenzie Mertikas is the president of SU’s Student Association. She along with the other members of SA, worked hard throughout the week to provide events, discussions and panels to spread spread the importance of mental health awareness.
“So far we had a kickoff in the Life Sciences Atrium on Monday. We have people tying ribbons on a fence if they’ve been affected by mental health or know someone who has been,” Mertikas said. “We’ve given away t-shirts… we’ve played cornhole… and lots of cool stuff, so it’s been really great so far.”
She also added that she’s happy about how much SU has done to expand on their resources, and that SA plans on teaming up with the Barnes Center throughout the year to provide more mental health awareness events.
As the year goes on, both Alfieri and Mertikas stressed the importance of checking in with yourself and your friends, and understanding that everyone is first and foremost, a person.
“We never say a depressed person, it’s a person with depression. Because everyone is still a person before any other illness, whether it be mental or physical.”