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BU launches mental health awareness campaign with poster series

Boston University launched a mental health awareness campaign Monday, including posters on anxiety outside Warren Towers. VIGUNTHAAN THARMARAJAH/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University’s Behavioral Medicine and Wellness and Prevention Services kicked off a new campaign Monday to raise awareness for mental health.

The campaign involves a series of posters, displayed outside Warren Towers, depicting struggling students accompanied by messages and statistics about mental health at BU and contact information for Behavioral Medicine.

BU hired artist Lili Chin to illustrate the posters, who said she agreed to help because she thinks the topic of mental health is important and because she had a family member suffering from mental illness.

BU gave Chin the text for each poster and suggestions of what to draw, she said.

“Each image is supposed to be reflective of what students experience and what people experience when they are suffering from mental illness, having doubts and worries and fears,” she said. “So I’m hoping that the images do capture those feelings.”

BU participates in the mental health-focused Healthy Minds Study and National College Health Assessment in alternating years, Erica Schonman, the prevention program administrator for BU Wellness and Prevention Services, wrote in an email. The results of these studies showed BU that a campaign like this was important, she wrote.

These statistics show that less than 75 percent of BU students know the place to go for mental health concerns and professional help, Schonman wrote, and about 50 percent of students think there is a stigma associated with receiving help for mental health.

The campaign aims to normalize common mental health concerns using data specific to BU, Schonman wrote. Chin’s posters also aid the campaign’s goal in describing what anxiety and depression may look like in college students, she wrote.

One of Chin’s posters for the campaign states that 84 percent of students have felt overwhelmed by all that they’ve had to do. Nichole Kyprianou, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she feels this rings true for students.

“Especially if you’re a student, you want to do well in your classes, but you probably also have a job,” Kyprianou said. “You’re just balancing all the responsibilities, and that can be overwhelming.”

The campaign also aims to inform students on where to go for professional help and remove the perceived stigma around getting treatment for mental health, Schonman wrote.

CAS freshman Ved Ahuja said he thinks the stigma surrounding mental health treatment can prevent students from seeking help.

“I think people are very afraid to be seen that way by their peers,” Ahuja said. “But I think it is integral that they do get the help that they need, even if they don’t think that they need it.”

Based on her experience working with the campaign, Chin said it aims to bring awareness to the subject of mental health, as many people know little of mental health issues.

“If students are suffering and they’re failing in their studies or they’re not making good grades because of mental health issues, it would be great if they could feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about it,” Chin said, “and not be stigmatized or ignored or not believed.”

Another statistic outlined in the campaign is that 73 percent of students say that mental health struggles have hurt their academics. Maddie Scheele, a freshman in the College of Communication, said she feels that this statistic is accurate in her experiences so far.

“Sometimes I don’t get a lot of sleep, and I think that can impact [my mental health] just because I’m worried about studying for all my tests and if I’ve studied enough,” Scheele said. “I think that number is pretty accurate. It’s scary, but it’s pretty accurate, especially to me.”

Although she does not know how the campaign will impact the overall mental health at BU, Schonman wrote that Behavioral Medicine and Wellness and Prevention Services hope to evaluate the results of the campaign at a later date.

“I think this campaign is necessary because BU students deserve the opportunity to thrive and grow at BU,” Schonman wrote.  “We believe that includes making BU a place where there’s less stigma around mental health, help is easy to access, students feel comfortable reaching out for help, and students support one another.”

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