September 3, 2015
"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."
Peter Drucker’s comment about hearing the unsaid is valuable in everyday relationships, but even more so with suicidal individuals. The silent cry for help from many people suffering with depression is sometimes recognized by those left behind only after a suicide or an attempt.
An estimated 1,100 college students die by suicide every year, according to the national student suicide-awareness organization Active Minds. On World Suicide Awareness Day, Thursday, Sept. 10, West Chester University’s Active Minds chapter will help bring the conversation on student mental health to the fore with "Take a Mental Health Day." Upbeat activities include rap and piano performances that testify to the healing power of music, a free picnic lunch on the Quad, discussions and resources that offer ways for students to connect with one another and with those who can address mental health concerns.
Awareness and education are crucial to recognizing mental health issues, which is one reason why life-size silhouettes of students have been peopling campus since late August. They call attention not only to the event but to student mental health, offering poignant quotes for the community to ponder.
Two young adult speakers who have endured personal struggles with mental health issues are the daytime focus of Take a Mental Health Day. As near-peers to college students, writer Stacy Pershall and rapper Kai Roberts both hope to reduce stigma and increase help-seeking behaviors. They openly share how they have managed their issues, she with borderline personality disorder and eating disorders and he with extreme anxiety. They direct the conversation toward positive outcomes by focusing on their creativity. Both speak in Sykes Student Union: Pershall at 1:30 p.m. and Roberts at 3 p.m. Read more about them here.
The day will conclude with a performance by a medical mental health professional who is also a virtuoso pianist. Dr. Richard Kogan, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music Pre-College, Harvard College, and Harvard Medical School, tells vivid stories about famous composers who suffered mental problems. He illustrates the composer's work by playing excerpts from their compositions, from Beethoven to Bernstein. His "Music, Mood Swings and Madness" presentation/concert, which takes place in Asplundh Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m., is free to WCU students, faculty and staff; general admission is $15.
The day before (Sept. 9), the Counseling Center and the Office of Wellness Promotion will host a "Check-Up from the Neck Up" event in Sykes Ballrooms from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. where students can opt for a mental health screening. There will be will information tables and giveaways as well as WCU’s therapy dogs, Darla and Tucker.