STORY BY JACOB GILMORE
The week before fall break was a major week for Surge, a new mental health advocacy group on campus. Oct. 6-10 was its first Mental Illness Awareness Week.
What is Surge exactly?
Surge is a mental health advocacy group that targets young adults. It has two goals: To raise awareness of the importance of mental health, and to facilitate acceptance of mental illness by eliminating the negative stigma that hinders mental health.
Drake junior Cecilia Panella, one of Surge’s founding members, said Surge does this by “hosting panels, having discussion-based meetings and various volunteer events in order to connect with the Drake community as well as provide a positive mental health environment for students and relevant faculty.”
On Oct. 7, Surge board members held a panel to discuss the impact mental illness has on the average student, and what students can do to raise awareness. Members of the board included Panella, Kaila Sekula, Raymond Starks and others.
The panel spoke about various topics. One major concern was that Drake lowered its counseling budget. Now, there are only three counselors on call, which may not be enough to help the student body.
Another concern was the negative stigma generated by general misuse and overuse of the words “crazy” and “depressed.” Panelists mentioned rights of privacy and the need for self-acceptance despite illness.
Students were asked questions throughout the event, such as “the proper way to respond to a friend’s declaration of mental illness.”
“Listen to what they have to tell you, but don’t prod them for more information than they’re willing to give,” the panel said. “They don’t need you to be their counselor, they need you to be their friend.”
Also included in the week’s events was “The Diagnosis,” an interactive haunted house designed to show participants how the mental health system both helps and hurts patients, was also a highlight of the week.
Participants experienced overwhelmed doctors ignoring patients, bored therapists asking generic questions and bewildering psychologists and psychiatrists refusing to communicate while in the haunted house. Then, the participants were given prescriptions with side effects before being thrown back into the real world.
In reflection, Sekula was proud to see how the first Mental Illness Awareness Week was received on campus.
“I was so excited to successfully complete our first Mental Illness Awareness Week on the Drake’s campus,” Sekula said. “It was so cool to see a variety of new faces coming to get involved in the conversation about mental health. If we can even get one person to broaden their understanding of mental health and its importance, then we’ve done our job.”
Surge plans to get students involved and learn more about mental illness through hosting more events in the near future.
Overall, the reaction has been positive.
“Surge is a great addition to Drake’s community,” said sophomore Molly Lamoureux. “I personally feel that we don’t have enough mental health awareness on campus. Mental health is something that influences every student, and Surge raises that awareness.”