Rowan holds its annual student mental health conference to address stigmas


The second annual Student Mental Health Conference was held in the Eynon Ballroom on Nov. 13.

All tables had purple tablecloths draped over them, and a table closest to the doors was full of index cards with a watermark of an elephant on them. Students had the option to write an “elephant in the room:” things that are common but aren’t really talked about. 

The purpose of this was to break stigmas around mental health and to let students know they’re not alone. All the notes will be hung in the Wellness Center window by the HCI office.

“On one of the cards I wrote, ‘I struggle with body image,’ and it’s hard for me to talk about and it’s hard for people to talk about, but I know I’m not the only one,” Allegra Giannini, a junior at Rowan who was running the table said.

Allie Pearce, assistant director of Healthy Campus Initiatives, Dr. Drew Tinnin, associate vice president of student life and interim dean of students, Allison Niemiec, a graduate coordinator for healthy campus initiative, Mandi Dorrell, advisor of Active Minds, and Kimmi Sterner, a Rowan graduate were the main speakers at the conference.

Niemiec started planning in September and was the sole coordinator of the event.

“I hope that students can identify that it’s okay to feel the way that they do and that they don’t have to feel alone in the matter and that they’re accepted,” Niemiec said.

Sterner, the keynote speaker, went over the difference between honesty and authenticity and compared it to a glacier. There was an activity where you wrote on a piece of paper what was at the top of the glacier and what was at the bottom.

“Honesty is at the top, so it’s what everyone can see,” Sterner said. “An example is social media. Everything on my social media is honest. This really did happen. However, what I’m not telling you is the authentic part of each picture. Underneath that water line is our authenticity, it’s the bulk of us that we sometimes forget about.”

The other speakers focused on the importance of talking about mental health and the stigmas attached to it. There was a discussion on suicide prevention and how the Questions, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) come into play. The conference was designed to give the students a platform to talk about mental health and learn from each other.

“Mental health is such an important topic that impacts all of our daily lives,” Tinnin said. “For me, it’s important to be in-tune with what’s going on with yourself. A practice that’s really been beneficial to me has been mindfulness. Just being present in the moment and then reflecting.” 

There were two break-out sessions run by students. Each session was 45 minutes long and had four different workshop options.

The first set of options were “Mental Health in the Fraternity and Sorority Community” by Kayla Raparelli, “Mending the Gap: Mental Health and Musical Theatre” by Gregory Nekrasovas, “Cortisol and Stress by Nirali Shah,” and “Using Emotional Intelligence to Enhance Conversation About Mental Health” by Basma Abukwaik.

“Our emotional state matters. Be kind to yourself,” Abukwaik said. “Emotional Intelligence is a different kind of smart.”

The second set of options consisted of “Self Love in the Age of Fitspo and Fasting” by Grace Van Cleef, “Change What We Normalize” by Nathan Evans Jr., “Treat Yourself: A Self-Care Guide to Life” by Jocelyn Reuben, and “Understanding Student Health and Burnout” by Jade Weisheit, Danielle Disbrow, and Alana Brown.

“We need to change what we normalize and really have those conversations,” Evans Jr. said. “Let’s create safe spaces where you can kick back, and we can just talk. It’s going to take some courageous people to really create that space.”

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  1. —-Rowan holds its annual student mental health conference to address its stigmas

    One can join those saying there is a stigma to mental illnesses, or work to help them overcome their prejudice.

    I far prefer the latter.