Thursday afternoon, about 60 students, faculty and social workers from across the country gathered to attend a Mental Health Monologues workshop led by Information senior Sonia Doshi, founder of Healthy Minds Student Leadership Coalition.
The workshop was part of the second day of the 14th annual Depression on College Campuses Conferences, hosted by the University of Michigan’s Depression Center.
Doshi created the event last year with the aim of giving students the opportunity to share their stories and experiences with mental health and reduce the stigma of mental health on campus. Three students performed monologues during a series of workshops, throughout which Doshi explained the process and intentions of the actual Mental Health Monologues, which will take place in April.
Speakers at the Monologues are anonymous due to the sensitive and personal nature of their stories. One student shared her story of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“When you have OCD, it is not uncommon for your thoughts to give you superpowers,” she said. “Once you get rid of one fear, another comes back.”
Following the first story, Doshi asked the audience to create a mental map, which encouraged participants to explore a theme such as pain, and then form a script for a potential monologue of their own.
“This activity simplifies the act of taking your entire life story and condensing it into a five minute performance,” Doshi said.
Nyshourn Price, student services specialist at the School of Social Work, shared her experiences as a single mother during the exercise.
“I saw that I was able to pull up something so quickly that is so old for me,” Price said. “There were two issues that came up for me. Grief, as I lost my mother two years ago, and my past relationship with my ex-husband.”
Another student monologue addressed depression by utilizing the metaphor of a Chinese finger trap toy. The student explained that the goal of a Chinese finger trap is to escape as quickly as possible.
“I am in a Chinese finger trap,” he said. “From age 12, I was not in control. I could not control my older sister’s anger, her hating school and hating life. Her punching holes in the wall the size of my head. I could not control my sister’s depression.”
The speakers of the three monologues underwent a lengthy process of practices and workshops in order to prepare for the event, which Doshi further highlighted by asking attendees to create poems from their mental maps.
The third monologue was from a speaker who compared her obsessive-compulsive disorder to sneezing.
“Sneezing is a universal truth,” she said. “Everyone turns and says, ‘Bless you.’ Sneezing interrupts our daily lives. But despite this need, a sneeze is usually technically voluntary.”
If you can understand the nature of a sneeze, she continued, you can gain better understanding of the compulsions associated with OCD and Tourette syndrome.
“They are constant interruptions in your life with tensions and urges that simply must be satisfied,” she said. “For the last year, my Tourette’s has had a physical take on flexing my right jaw muscle. Just like a sneeze, I have to do it. We have to move from sympathy to empathy. There is no ‘bless you.’ ”
Price said that events such as the Mental Health Monologues are vital in continuing the dialogue of mental health on college campuses.
“I do a lot of work with disabilities,” Price said. “Mental health is one piece of it. It’s getting people to understand and walk in your shoes. Sometimes the hidden disabilities are not as easy.”