Four students partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to host a light-show event on the Diag Friday in hopes of bringing positivity to the community as finals approach. The students decorated the lawn with lanterns arranged in a block M design, on which local Ann Arbor residents and University of Michigan students wrote positive affirmations.
On Nov. 10, Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, the students, along with volunteers from NAMI, stood on the Diag, inviting passersby to share their positive affirmations and decorate their lantern bags.
LSA junior Abby Binder, project coordinator of the University’s chapter of NAMI, said her and her peers began this initiative as part of a project for their Psychology 223: Entrepreneurial Creativity course.
“The four of us had to brainstorm ideas of what we thought was innovative and exciting for the community for our psychology class,” Binder said. “We came up with the idea of having a lantern event on the Diag as a metaphor for bringing light into people’s life during the final season and the whole idea behind the positive affirmations was to remember that we have these positive things about ourselves or in our lives.”
Throughout the process of developing this project, LSA junior Alexandra Greenberg noticed that people often have difficulties thinking about their own positive qualities. Greenberg said this project gave her the opportunity to encourage people to find things about themselves that they enjoy.
“It was great that the whole community and student population could come together to talk about something that is really important,” Greenberg said.
Binder agreed that it is important for people struggling with mental health to know that they are not alone. The purpose of this event was to spark a conversation about mental health with others.
“The whole idea of arranging the lanterns in a block M was a symbol for community and how everyone can come together,” Binder said. “When we did the event of writing out the affirmations, it was rewarding to reach people who we would otherwise not have, who would have continued going about their day and not reflecting about themselves.”
Engineering junior Bradin Zaba, an organizer of the event, said he cares for his mental health by taking breaks when he needs them, not pushing himself too hard and accepting outcomes that are not perfect. Projects, internships and job searches often pile up during the school year and negatively impact Zaba’s — as well as many other students’ — mental health.
“I have realized that not everything can be perfect, and I instead should aim for satisfaction, not perfection,” Zaba said. “I want to be proud of what I have done and not stress myself out too much by letting the little things slide.”
LSA sophomore Rishav Mitra, another organizer of the event, told The Daily that constant studying and work also negatively impacts his mental health and makes him want to take a break. Mitra said he combats this negativity by working out in order to relax and let go of his stress.
“I think that overall, you should balance your school work out with things that you like to do,” Mitra said. “If you are unhappy with your college experience right now, then you are not going to be happy in the end when you graduate, so it is important to take the time to participate in activities that bring you joy.”
Greenberg stressed that in order to feel good about yourself and succeed in life, you have to be able to value yourself and know who you are as a person, which is the message she hopes people took away from this event.
“It’s important to remember that every single step that you take in your life is an important part of your journey and can help you succeed in the long term,” Greenberg said.
Given the positive feedback on the event, the four students said they are all happy and thankful for the final project. Binder said she had a great time throughout this process meeting new people and having conversations with students and community members about this event.
“We want to thank all of the NAMI people who came out and helped us today,” Binder said. “We had so many volunteers and we could not have been successful without them. I encourage everyone to continue to take care of their mental health during finals season, and in every season by doing the things that make them happiest.”
Daily News Contributor Ellie Geib can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.