(Photographed by Volunteer Writer Connor Sullivan)
Volunteer Writer: Connor Sullivan
Students were treated to a pleasant surprise last Wednesday, October 25th, 2023: a school-sponsored Mental Health Day with a plethora of events to promote relaxation and mental health awareness.
Throughout the day, students could learn about mental health issues, practice coping skills, enjoy fun activities, or just take a day off from the stressful midterm period.
Mental Health Day was spurred by the growing trend of mental health awareness across the country. It is to become an annual event for UMass Dartmouth, thanks in part to the efforts of Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Kimberly Scott.
“When I arrived in January, there was no Mental Health Day,” explained Scott, “It’s just an overall issue for our nation … for us, it was important not to be responsive, but proactive.”
Scott also explained how they plan on expanding mental health awareness in the Spring semester with Mental Health Week. “After we finish this event we have the process of identifying the dates for mental health week,” said Scott, specifying that “clearly it will be after Spring Break.”
Many events were centralized on the campus center patio.
At 9:30 AM, there was the Official Kick-Off, where staff gave out flyers advertising all the events over big piles of free chips and candy. Staff also gave out miniature Zen gardens and goodie bags filled with hygiene supplies.
At 11 AM, students were encouraged to “represent your own personal style” by both tie-dyeing t-shirts and building gnomes out of foam cones and fabric. There were also tables for students to practice “Neurographic Art,” using freely provided watercolors and colored pencils.
The activities inside the Campus Center were focused on addressing specific mental health issues and offering means of coping with them.
Off in the TV pit, there was “Charlie Brown Themed Advice.” There, students could seek brief, 10-to-20-minute mental health screenings with members of the counseling center.
Dr. Valerie Seney, who organized this event, was glad to be a part of the push for mental health awareness. She claimed that many students “stated that they felt really good and are actually going to use the tools that we taught them.”
Meanwhile, in the Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality, many had their first experience with a sound bath. Hosted by Massage Therapist Steph Bedard-Dolph, the sound bath featured a guided meditation accompanied by continuous soundwaves from a variety of instruments, including several brass bowls, a gong, and an “ocean drum.”
The room was packed more than even Bedard-Dolph’s expected, “I was really excited to see it, I was expecting three or four!”
Many of the students were quite responsive, bowing their heads with their eyes closed while the sound vibrated through the floor beneath their feet.
The conclusion of the sound bath at 3 PM coincided with the opening of the Rage Room. Hosted by House of Rage, the Rage Room granted students 3-4 minutes to smash glass bottles and plates with a variety of weapons.
After filling out a waiver and waiting in line, students were given protective equipment before entering.
“We gave each student a crate full of breakables, and then they get a weapon of choice; a baseball, sledgehammer, stuff like that,” explained Katarina Cidade, co-owner of House of Rage.
Another event was the “Guided Tour of the Labyrinth.” The first true showcase of the brand-new labyrinth that was built just this summer. The event featured members of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life guiding people through using it.
The Labyrinth promotes mindfulness in whatever way each student is comfortable with.
According to Deacon Frank Lucca, “it gives people an opportunity from a non-faith perspective, just take time and quietly move through this path, and then people of faith might use it a different way. You might consider your life and sins on the way in, and changes on the way out.”
The campus center wasn’t the only area with events. Over at the Grove, one of the most popular events was hosted on the second floor, Barn Babies.
The traveling petting zoo had a variety of baby animals that students could hold, including bunnies, piglets, and chicks. There were also several larger animals in pens, such as puppies, kittens, and a baby goat named Patty.
Barn Babies seemed to be the most popular event among students. Freshman Daniel Erman claimed, “It was delightful. All those little creatures were very friendly, very pleasant.”
Check out another in-depth article on a Barn Babies event held back in the Spring 2023 semester.
Right next to Barn Babies, there was a table hosting “Coffee with a Cop.” The purpose of this table was to spread awareness of the services offered by the UMass Dartmouth’s Police Department.
As explained by Lena Reddick, Executive Administrative Assistant for the UMassD Police Department, “If you’re feeling lonely, and you need someone to talk to: call us and we’ll get you the help that you need.”
Far off in the Charlton College of Business, two seminars were hosted on the day. First, at 10 AM, Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Professor Tanya Gouveia hosted a presentation titled “Pot Twist.” It focused on the impacts of cannabis on mental health.
Much later, at 4:30 PM, Monica Godinho of the STAR Center gave a presentation on WOOP goals. Similar to the concept of SMART goals, WOOP is an acronym that lays out the steps for developing, planning, and achieving goals.
Godinho stressed the importance of goal setting for mental health, stating, “I absolutely, 100% think that if students looked at their goals regularly, it would definitely help decrease their stress.”
Even further off in the Woodland Commons, a panel of women leaders on campus came together for the “UMassD Women Lead.” During this presentation, each panelist answered questions from the audience on how being a woman has impacted their career and mentality.
These questions included topics like how to be assertive without coming off “like a bitch,” advice for entering predominately male industries, reporting sexual harassment, and dealing with the stress it causes.
The last event for the day was hosted in the Frederick Douglas Unity House. It was a presentation entitled “Journey to Manhood: A Workshop for Men of Color.”
Presented by licensed social worker Warren Mitchell, this workshop addressed the mental health concerns of men, specifically men of color.
“College can be a very challenging time for many people,” said Mitchell, “No matter what your life experience has been … Nothing can destroy your true essence.”
He advises the men on campus, “To be honest with themselves about how they’re really doing. To have hope that there is a better way … to support not only themselves but their community as well.”
Check out our article on the current state of mental health awareness and acceptance.