First OWU sub-community house introduced on campus

By Liz Hardaway, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Residential Life offers alternatives for groups of  students who share similar interests and want to live together. There are theme houses, SLUs, fraternities and now, introducing, a sub-community.

The first of its kind, the proposed Mental Health Small Living Unit (SLU) seeks to provide students with a comfortable space to discuss mental health related topics.

“In college, there’s your three healths …physical health, spiritual health [and] mental health, [which] was the one area where something could be improved,” said freshman Dylan Hays. “Our retention rate was not good, and I think this is a reflection of that. So why not do something to try to improve that?”

Since all the current SLU houses are occupied, the Mental Health SLU was not approved to move into a house, said Wendy Piper, the assistant dean of student affairs and director of residential life.

Although there are counseling services for students to visit if they are having concerns about their mental health, the sub-community is striving to create a more accepting environment to have these conversations.

“We wanted to be a more casual way to discuss mental health,” said freshman Katy Tuggle, president of Active Minds and one of the creators of the sub-community. “For a lot of people, there’s a stigma for going to counseling services. You have to have a really, full, legitimate problem, so this is the middle ground between it.”

Unlike legitimate SLUs, the sub-community will not have a moderator nor a dedicated budget for planning activities, said Piper.

The sub-community plans to re-apply again next year to get into a house.

In the meantime, some members might be living near each other in the same residence hall. They also have the option to apply for funding through the Wesleyan Student Council on Affairs (WCSA) to plan future events.

“Instead of everything being theoretical, we will have actual experience to back [our plans] up,” said Tuggle.

The acceptance of Mental Health Day

Photo courtesy of freeallpicture.com.
Photo courtesy of freeallpicture.com.

It came to my attention that Oct. 10 was “Mental Health Day,” which was actually sponsored by the World Health Organization. My social media platforms were littered with people saying how their families and friends had supported them, or them sharing their stories. When I saw these posts, I had mixed feelings. My first thought was how happy I was with the amount of people being so open with their stories. My other thought was why did we need another “day?” I feel like we have “days” for everything, and didn’t understand why having a mental health “day” was necessary.

After some thought, I came to the conclusion as to why I felt so skeptical toward these declarations. I just wasn’t used to the complete transparency people felt with whatever they were dealing with. When I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and a few other things, I felt like I was suffering in secret. When I told friends, they either didn’t believe me or they treated me like glass. Then I stopped telling people for quite a while. But my time at Ohio Wesleyan encouraged me to be more open with my struggles, because people had an idea of what it was like. They didn’t go through the exact struggles I did, but they were sympathetic toward me. But they didn’t treat me like any less of a person.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed on Oct. 10 was almost surreal; I didn’t realize how many people were suffering in silence. And I was one of them for a long time. I may have scoffed at first when hearing about a “Mental Health Day,” but now I’m ashamed at that reaction. If that day provided an outlet for someone to seek the help they so desperately needed or allowed them to feel comfortable enough to tell their friends, I am not one to judge.

Since my diagnosis, there have been such massive changes in how mental health issues are perceived. Though unfortunately, there’s still a stigma attached, it’s not as taboo as it once was.

People are more open with their struggles, and in turn, encourage others to either confront their issues or be more willing to talk about them.

However, with the normalization of mental illness, I’m afraid people take the terms so cavalierly. For example, someone who is neat and orderly complains they are “so OCD.” No, you’re not. That’s just making light of someone who actually suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Or when people say they’re going to kill themselves over a bad test grade; to me, that’s almost spitting in the face of someone who tried to commit suicide or to someone whose loved one did.

People need to be more careful with their language in order for more people to feel comfortable coming forward with their struggles.

Though I’m incredibly happy about more people coming out with their stories and struggles with mental illness, I hope this isn’t a fad. I hope people are taking this seriously as I am. I also hope that next Oct. 10, or whenever the next Mental Health Day is, that more people will have the courage to talk about their struggles.