Content Warning: mentions of eating disorders, drug abuse, sexual assault and other mental health conditions
CAPS in Action held their second annual Mental Health Fair on March 15 in the Michigan Union. Multiple University of Michigan student speakers shared their stories on mental health experiences, drug abuse and sexual assault. The last part of the event gave students an opportunity to meet with mental health and wellness student organizations, engage with therapy dogs or grab some dinner from the catered table.
LSA senior Evelyn Richardson, events committee chair for CAPS in Action, kicked off the event by explaining the purpose of the fair. Richardson said the Mental Health Fair aims to destigmatize individuals with mental health conditions on campus and warned that sensitive topics would be discussed. She also presented resources and identified the CAPS counselors present in the room in case students wanted to speak with one of them during the event.
Education junior Anna Ebbitt started out the event by sharing her experience with suicidal thoughts, depression and body dismorphia. Ebbitt spoke about what she learned in her struggle with her eating disorder.
“I turned 21 today, something I didn’t see possible only a year ago,” Ebbitt said. “But here I am, proving to myself that I am more than capable of falling down and getting back up again.”
Ebbitt said she hopes her growth provides hope for other students who are struggling with mental health.
“I’m not the same person I was a year ago,” Ebbitt said. “I love myself. I love that I cry at almost every movie, even ones you think wouldn’t make you cry. I love that I attach myself so strongly to those around me.”
The second presentation was an anonymous submission of four pieces of art. The pieces represented different mental health struggles the author has experienced. The first piece depicted what the author’s anxiety looked like through an artististic lens. The next image symbolized the artist’s depression, with a photo of the smiling face of a girl shadowed by a dark, cloudy hue.
The third image depicted the artist’s experience with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a disorder which makes it difficult for people to focus. The image displayed a pile of papers and work with animated bees superimposed all over the image, clouding the view of the work to describe the artist’s inability to focus.
The fourth piece of art depicted its artist’s experience with eating disorders by displaying an inverted photo of the artist’s body. The anonymous author described the inversion of the photo as the way they saw their body.
LSA sophomore Nathan Bolen, who spoke on his experience with a hallucinogen persisting perception disorder spoke after Ebbitt. Bolen said he worries about the stigmatization surrounding mental health and fears about disappointing others. He said these concerns prevented him from getting help with his drug addiction.
“It’s important to think about drug use objectively, through the eyes of the user,” Bolen said.
LSA junior Hope Amayo was the last speaker of the fair and spoke on her experiences with abuse growing up. She spoke about her experiences growing up in an abusive household and how she continues to deal with her sexual assault.
“It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but I was able to reset (my) mind and get that self respect and self love,” Amaya said. “I was lucky enough to figure out how to do that … With that hard work and effort, you’ll be able to get into a spot of recovery, and it’s so worth it and it’s so beautiful. And you’re all worth it.”
After the presentation ended, students grabbed food, interacted with Emma the therapy dog and had the opportunity to meet with student organizations centered on wellness and mental health such as Pulse, Mental Health Matters, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, hEART listens, Mentality Magazine and CAPS in Action were spread out in the room.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the event, Richardson spoke on why the event was created last year by CAPS in Action.
“(In) Fall 2019, we kind of started brainstorming,” Richardson said. “We wanted a larger scale event to destigmatize mental health … I feel like we’ve (done) a lot of tabling with other organizations, but we wanted something that we could create on our own.”
Richardson said this year — compared to last year’s virtual Mental Health Fair — the event was a more impactful experience for the audience and the speakers.
“I really like seeing turnout like this where you can really see the impact you’re making on campus,” Richardson said.“It’s great to give our speakers a platform for sharing their stories as well.”
Daily News Reporter Rachel Mintz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.