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Stigma Free ULV campaign tackles mental health taboos

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Jonathan Garcia
Andrea Molina
Staff Writers

Student organizations and offices from the University of La Verne are collaborating on Stigma Free ULV, a campaign aimed at reducing the stigma associated with asking for help with common mental health conditions.

There are 10 different offices collaborating on the campaign, including the Associated Students of the University of La Verne, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Center for Multicultural Services, Academic Success Center, Office of First Generation and Peer Mentoring Programs, Office of Student Life, Randall Lewis Center for Well-Being & Research, Academic and Career Advising, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Student Outreach and Support.

The campaign is mostly done through social media posts and virtual events. Students and staff are encouraged to submit 20 second videos with personal tips for dealing with life’s daily stressors, said Daniel Loera, director for the Center for Multicultural Affairs.

“We’ve recognized that students, faculty and staff are facing difficulties. We wanted to do something about it,” said Sarah Rodman-Alvarez, executive director of the Lewis Center. “Our goals are normalizing the fact that everyone has struggles, getting rid of stigma and letting students know that help is available.”

In the following weeks, Stigma Free ULV will share Instagram story posts of students sharing their personal narratives so that students who cannot attend events can also be part of this campaign.

Adrianne Montero-Camacho, case manager for the Student Support and Outreach Department, said Stigma Free ULV offers students perspective and a moment to pause and relate to others in their personal struggle with mental health.

“Unfortunately, stigma is a normal thing that we all feel, but we can work together as a University to change that perspective,” Montero-Camacho said.

Sarah Morales, senior social science major and ASULV president, said she hopes this campaign will encourage students to be more in tune with their own mental health, as well as normalize conversations around mental health and its effects on students.

“It is never weak, ugly or wrong to ask for help and to seek guidance,” Morales said.

Mental health problems are common among college aged students, with one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain, said it is important to normalize challenges, create support structures and emphasize that there is no shame in seeking help.

“Most of us have an emotional world inside that we all need to care for. It’s unfortunate that we have stigmas associated with getting help,” Wagoner said. “The more we can share our experiences, the more resources we can use for our own self-care.”

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life offers various Stigma Free ULV events. These events include meditation and energy balancing through breathwork, which are strategies students can use to help settle our body and clear our minds.

Cassandra Godinez, coordinator for STEM Pathway Peer Mentorship, said the Stigma Free ULV campaign is a way to make resources available for students, faculty and staff on campus. She said this campaign gives students the opportunity to practice vulnerability when it comes to mental health and asking for help when they need it instead of fighting it by themselves.

“Motivation is the most predominant mental health condition in my students. It is really hard to be motivated when we don’t really know what is on the other side of this pandemic,” Godinez said.

Furthermore, as part of this campaign, the Lewis Center offers meditation and yoga classes from Monday to Saturday in order to help students’ emotional well-being by giving them an outlet to release stress and anxiety.

Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Elleni Koulos said the University offers individual therapy as well. Students can call 909-448-4105 or email CAPS@laverne.edu to schedule an appointment.

Stigma Free ULV events can be found through Campus Labs. Every time students RSVP and participate in a Stigma Free ULV event they can enter a raffle for a monthly prize; February’s prize is a Fitbit.

Jonathan Garcia can be reached at jonathan.garcia3@laverne.edu.

Andrea Molina can be reached at andrea.molinamartinez@laverne.edu.

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