By Contributing Writer Nicole O’Connell
A three-day marathon was recently held at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, but participants did not exert too much pressure, and, in fact, there was no running required at all. The You Matter Marathon was situated in the Campus Center November 12-14 and encouraged students and other members of the UMass Dartmouth community with the simple message of “You Matter.”
The You Matter Marathon was founded by Cheryl Rice in 2016. Someone handed her a card saying “You Matter” when she was having a bad day. That kind act inspired and motivated her to spread the message.
Three years later, the marathon is going strong. Participants receive little white cards with the message “You Matter” and distribute them to friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers throughout the month of November.
Over 100,000 people have participated and have handed out over 1,000,000 cards. The You Matter Marathon is described on the organization’s website as, “a global initiative that creates positive connections between individuals and within communities.”
Beth-Anne Guthrie, Director of Health Promotion at UMass Dartmouth, believes this is the first year UMass Dartmouth has participated in the program.
Peer-health educators on campus, who Guthrie supervises, decided they wanted to participate in the You Matter campaign. They chose the dates of November 12-14 because Wednesday the 13th was the same day as World Kindness Day.
“Our goal is to increase kindness, compassion, and connection between students and other individuals, staff and faculty on campus and to give students and others the opportunity to spread that beyond campus,” says Guthrie.
At the booth in the Campus Center, students and community members could sign up and receive cards to hand out through the rest of November. Visitors also had the opportunity to write a letter to a loved one, with the letter being mailed for them postage paid. Furthermore, a photo booth was set up to help spread the message even further by participants sharing their photos online through social media.
On one of the days, Arnie, UMass Dartmouth’s mascot, and Rocket, a therapy dog, visited and participated in some of the photo booth photos.
“People need to be reminded that they do matter and that their lives matter. People often, unfortunately, do not feel that way,” says Guthrie. “There’s a decrease in connection among people and an increase in loneliness, especially among young adults, so we thought [the You Matter Marathon] was one way we could combat that.”
The recent You Matter Marathon is just one of the efforts UMass Dartmouth is making to improve metal health on campus. QPR Suicide Prevention Trainings and mental health first aid trainings are offered. LiveWell runs multiple StressLess days in the library per semester to give students a chance to unwind and decrease the stress that often comes with being a college student. In addition, next semester UMass Dartmouth is launching a chapter of Active Minds, a national organization that addresses stigma around mental illness.
Even though November is almost over, it is not too late to tell someone you know that they matter.
“It is really something quite simple,” says Guthrie, “but those two words can have a lot of impact on somebody and how they feel.”