Rowan’s inaugural Mental Health Conference brings mental wellness to the forefront

-Graphics editor/Amanda Palma

The Student Mental Health Conference was held Wednesday, organized and run by the students of Rowan University.

“50 percent of students come in without prior conversations on mental health,” said Joy Kim, the conference’s head organizer and B.A. in psychology. “Most students feel their problems are not big enough to take notice.”

The conference hosted eight workshops. Each tackled an avenue of coping mechanisms that students could take to promote mental wellness and health.

“We don’t tell our stories enough, people beside you are going through the same experiences as you,” said Director of Campus Recreation Kevin George.

The conference boasted a turnout of 30 Rowan students with upwards of 10 faculty members all attending to learn more about the issue of mental health and wellness at Rowan University as well as abroad.

Kim emphasized it was created to bring awareness of mental health practices to Rowan University in a substantial way.

“There wasn’t a big event where people can come and learn [about mental health],” Kim said. 

She stressed the amount of work that went into the creation of this event; securing and emailing workshop heads, confirming locations for the workshops and ensuring the entire event went smoothly.

 “The last pieces didn’t fall into place until [the day of the event],” Kim said.

Workshop leaders senior music performance major Steven Solkela and graduate student Naveen Khan focused on self-forgiveness and the impact of volunteering on mental health, respectively.

Solkela’s workshop asked attendees to participate in group conversation about self-forgiveness and mental health. His presentation showcased his patented sense of humor that is known by anyone that knows him. The presentation followed his personal philosophies on self-forgiveness.

“Humanity is nicer than you think. Humans are social creatures,” Solkela said.

Along with other ideas such as leaving time for oneself despite the feeling of laziness that may come with it, understanding the heavy standards we put on ourselves and working around them as well as knowing a set stance on altruism.

Solkela’s Spectrum of Altruism outlines four modes of social interaction: Cynic, or ones who need to put their personal needs over others; The Runner, those who avoid confrontation; Tentative, those willing to stick to a situation until the moment feels right to leave; and The Giver, or ones who need to put the needs of others over their personal needs.

Kahn’s presentation outlined the benefits of volunteering to mental health.

“68 percent of volunteers feel physically better, 29 percent of volunteers who suffer from chronic illness also report feeling better after volunteering, 72 percent say volunteering lowered stress and 90 percent say it enriches their lives,” Kahn said.

She outlined the three benefits of volunteering: personal, professional and scientific. Through testimonials from volunteers, Kahn showed the effects of volunteering on a personal and professional level.

On a scientific level, Kahn reported that volunteering releases endorphins causing a ‘helpers high.’

According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information report, these chemicals can reduce pain and boost pleasure.

Other notable speakers at the conference include Dr. David Rubenstein, vice president of Health and Wellness, and Dean Rihard L. Jones, vice president for Student Life and Dean of Students.

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