Seminar and exhibit gives students space to discuss inner struggles

Seminar and exhibit gives students space to discuss inner struggles

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By Jesse Sailer, Sports Editor

The What’s Your Big Lie? (WYBL) pop-up exhibit and seminar allowed students to share their inner struggles with their peers and start open conversation about mental health.

The point of the exhibit and program was to bring to light the fact that everyone is living a lie whether it be big or small, in their work life or personal life and that although sometimes we can’t admit it, it’s okay to be living with that lie.

The pop-up exhibit was featured in the atrium of Hamilton-Williams Campus Center (HWCC) throughout the entire day and consisted of a collection of answers to thought provoking questions about mental health. The responses were then projected on the walls, floors and ceiling in the atrium for all to see.

Jordan Axani, the creator of WYBL, led the seminar by telling us how he came to realize the lie he had been living with. After years of being bullied in elementary school, dealing with family issues as well as handling his mental stress, he admitted that, “For 20 years, I hated myself immensely and I was afraid to admit it to anyone, especially myself.”

Junior and Panhellenic President Mackenzie Brunke said, “Axani was enthusiastic about a hard to discuss topic and took it with grace.”

Axani turned to social media as a cathartic release. He started to write and post what he was going through on Instagram. The more he shared, the more people contacted him with their stories and what they were going through. He realized then that he wasn’t alone in his battle.

This WYBL program was developed in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and a team of mental health experts in 2016, and has been praised as life-changing by numerous audiences.

“I have the incredible privilege to work with students, employees and everyday people on helping them kill their inner imposter and embrace who they really are,” Axani said.

WYBL has been presented to over 150,000 students, teachers, parents, entrepreneurs and professionals across North America with hundreds of institutions using WYBL as a way to build a “culture of openness, empathy and belonging.” (https://www.shiftcollab.com/programs/wybl/)

“It was a great approach to reducing the stigma that follows issues like mental health, you were able to feel safe talking about it with your peers,” junior Tessa Coleman said.

Once Axani was through with his story he invited the audience to participate in

Using phones and an anonymous platform, students submitted their ‘big lies’ and other insecurities secretly. Their responses are filtered almost immediately and are then projected at the front of the room.

Just moments after the first confessions showed up on the screen, there was both a moment of relief and recognition on everyone’s faces. Nobody was alone in what they were feeling. Axani, as well as students from the audience, offered words of affirmation and hope to those that bravely sent in their submissions.

Axani took the seminar a step further and asked if students would like to stand up and share their stories without the cover of anonymity that their phone provided. It took a few seconds and a room full of wandering eyes before the first hand bravely went up.

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