Tap, tap. Instant gratification sent.
Social media, including, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and even LinkedIn, have spun the world of mental health education in full circle. From issues regarding instant connections, to societal pressures and comparing yourself to one another, the Google searches, research articles, and news titles that talk about the effects of social media on teenagers mental health are plentiful. However, this is not the only way social media has impacted mental health, and not the aspect of it that should be focused on. Instead, it is important that as a society we choose to use social media as a tool to provide a safe community and change the conversation (and stigma) around mental health.
As a user hits that heart button, thumbs up emoji, or double taps to give a photo a like, they are fueling the need for gratification of the rising generation of millennials. This is not necessarily negative, gratification is very important in motivation and drive. However, if someone spends forty-five minutes taking different photos, ten minutes deciding which photo will receive the largest response, another ten minutes editing the photo that no longer resembles who they are, but instead who they wish to be, they are developing this falsified version of self. Not only is that positive feedback from friends and followers only providing a compliment to this romanticized version of the person, it also provides a warped view of reality for others to compare themselves to. It is hard trap to not fall into, but it is the reality that social media creates.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Advocates, educators, students, employees, and anyone else who has access to an audience, should instead use the speed of communication on social media as a tool to promote better mental health. Users can start a conversation, make people aware of resources, provide advice, and foster a community where people can come together to share their stories of both triumph and struggles, because that is what is real.
There have been efforts by many larger therapy establishments to create a branch of help online, allowing access to so many more people who may be struggling. This allows those who are not ready or not able to make an appointment for an in person visit to a therapist, to have immediate access and response when in need. UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services has an online service where students can ask questions without having to face the increasingly long waitlist to get an appointment. This, along with the online services of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and many others, allows immediate, online, anonymous chats with people who are trained to help with emergency situations. Such outlets prove the power of using the accessibility and speed of these online communication tools to better the world of mental health. These larger organizations have provided a space for the necessary private conversations to take place, however, destigmatizing mental health and starting a conversation, is something that can take place on social media. This can be as simple as correcting a friend, posting about one’s own struggles with mental illness to help normalize it, or constructively criticize certain media for their misrepresentation of mental health to educate others . In simple terms, we as a society need to leave behind the negative aspects of social media and instead, use it to stand up for what we believe in.
People commonly use mental illnesses as colloquial references to a temporary feeling, if we, as educated advocates of better mental health, see this, it is okay to step in and educate. The misuse of a word which undermines the true meaning of a mental illness or symptom is hurtful to many and diminishes what those who are struggling may be feeling. Not only is it okay to do this, but it is necessary to open people’s eyes to the effect of their words.
Sharing one’s own story is not an easy feat, and if you do not feel comfortable doing it, then don’t. However, if you do, it may help others feel like they are not alone. While one in five people live with a mental illness at some point in their life, we cannot see it, and this makes people shy away from sharing their story. If you are able to share, it will create a safe space for others to come and feel like part of a community.
The information out there is not always correct, and we know this. This flurry of fake news has everyone worried. Many times violence is blamed on a mental illness, movies and television series will provide false representations of mental illness, or news articles will provide misleading representations. As easy as it is to like or share a post, users can instead, quote and deconstruct some of these outlets for the mentioned flaws. This may start various conversations or debates, but those are the conversations that need to be had. They will help reveal and dissect the aspects of media that have helped create a stigma around mental health that has been so hard to break down. Instagram does not have to be a place of a warped reality. Share your real story.
Personally, as the Active Minds UCLA Marketing Director I post self-care tips weekly, motivational thoughts and quotes that encourage students that their pain is valid and has a place to be heard, and remind them of the resources available constantly. Through Facebook, I have had many conversations not only with alumni, but others across the nation who have been touched by our content and would like to get more involved in mental health advocacy in their neighborhood. This movement is as simple as spreading the message.
Our chapter here at UCLA, has also provided our followers and friends with photo campaigns that bring a community together. From our version of the Semicolon Project, to a Culture in Mind exhibit that exemplified the idea that regardless of what your background is or how you identify, you have mental health and it matters as much as anyone else’s. These visual aids allow our users to interact with the usual content of the platform that is intriguing and sensational, but sends an important message about mental health.
While approaching the Each Mind Matters event here at UCLA, my co-ambassador and I decided to focus on the LGBTQ Community and creating a safe space for healing and mindfulness. We decided on this approach because every story is so different, and we did not
want to invite people to a place and attempt to tell their story. We, instead, want to foster this community where everyone can come and share their story, find an even ground, and be proud of their identity. This is how we should approach our use of social media. Allow it to be a grounds for change and improvements. A place where anyone can come, ask questions, debate, share their stories, and feel safe, however they present themselves. Let social media be a platofrm that cares about what’s behind the screen. The instant gratification for helping someone through a hard time, or educating hundreds, is so much larger than that of a like on a selfie. Use it as the tool that it is.
Tap. Tap. Instant advocacy sent.
With Winter Quarter in full swing, Active Minds UCLA took a chance to step away from midterms and discuss mental health in a new light. During week five, all of our hard working directors and members put on an amazing initiative, titled Culture in Mind, during which we discussed the intersectionality between culture and mental health. The week consisted of daily event collaborations with various cultural groups on campus, along with a week-long photo project featured inside the Kerckhoff Art Gallery, where Bruins from different cultural backgrounds and communities were featured.
The week began with our Events committee putting on a collaboration with MEChA, called Latinx/Chicanx Mental Health. The event featured a presentation describing the role of mental health in these communities and aimed to inform students about existing mental health resources both on and off campus which are available to them. An intimate and interesting discussion developed among the guests that tackled all sorts of cultural stigmas, perceptions and beliefs in the Latinx/Chicanx community and how that has influenced students’ mental health experiences. Many people from the community along with allies took the time to participate in such a great event!
Tuesday, our Education committee collaborated with INDUS for the event A Focus on Mental Health in the South Asian Community. This evening was full of information, resources, and discussions about how mental health is perceived in this community, why it is perceived that way, and what we can do to change this perception. There was a short film displayed about the representation of mental health within Southeast Asian communities and insightful group discussions that included students’ personal narratives and helpful information which stemmed from the film.Thanks to our Education Committee and INDUS for sharing such amazing insight and information with our Bruin community.
Wednesday - the excitement continued as our Workshops committee collaborated with both Outwrite NewsMagazine and the LGBT Center here on campus for our event titled Embracing Queer Mental Health. This event provided a safe space for students from the LGBTQ+ community and aimed to create a comfortable environment in which narratives pertaining to struggle, pain, strength, and power from members and allies could be shared. It started with a panel of students from the Outwrite Magazine who educated a lot of our guests with their own stories, stories of others, and information that can change people’s lives. The emotion driven insight and discussions educated and comforted many people in this community along with their friends and fellow Bruins. This event highlighted mental health in a culture that faces a lot of unattended illnesses, and was extremely important to help us all grow as a community.
As the week continued, all of Active Minds, led by the one and only Tania Caceres, collaborated with the Afrikan Student Union, for Black Minds Matter, in the Kerckhoff Art Gallery. The event hosted Dr. Green from CAPS who led a presentation on specific mental health perceptions, stigmas and struggles within the African American community and provided resources aimed to help the African American population here on campus. A great thank you to Dr. Green and the Afrikan Student Union for helping raise awareness about the intersectionality between mental health and the African American population through this event.
We ended the week, with our Advocacy Committee collaborating with the Undocumented Student Program at UCLA, for an event titled Addressing Anxiety in the Undocumented Student Community. During this particularly volatile time, we recognize that being an undocumented student is more stressful than ever, thus this event aimed to provide not only a safe space to these students, but also give out as many resources as possible to help deal with any anxiety and stress that these times may bring. The event consisted of a student who shared his experience being an undocumented student and how his mental health has been impacted as a result of lack of resources, the current political climate and the anxieties that come with being a student at an institution such as UCLA. Followed by his remarkable narrative, Jo Pessin, a mindfulness expert, joined us for a mindfulness and stress management workshop which taught students how to release stress for students. It is an important issue to address today and everyday, thus we aim to support this community with resources and allies as much as possible. A huge thank you to Jo and Undocubruins for helping make this event possible!
Throughout the week, our Culture in Mind: Exploring the Intersectionality between Culture and Mental Health photo project was displayed in Kerckhoff Art Gallery, portraying the many cultures that our Bruins come from and how each student’s mental health matters. Active Minds UCLA members, directors, SWC directors, our campus’ Bruin Bear, members from the Afrikan Student Union, The Beautiful Mind Project, the Muslim Student Association, Global Siblings, the Dashew Center, sororities, GRIT Peer Coaching, INDUS, Outwrite Magazine, the LGBT Center, undocumented students, USAC representatives and general reps, Bruin RunWalk, Bruin Consent Coalition, Body Image Task Force and many more organizations + members of various cultural communities were a part of this photo campaign. We thank everyone who participated in this project as it would not have been made possible without them. The purpose of this campaign was to advocate for everyone’s mental health but as well as mental health within cultural communities which is often overlooked. What we all achieved by bringing Bruins from different organizations and cultural communities is a beautiful testament to how when we build bridges between communities we are stronger together.
We are proud to also report that our Culture in Mind photo campaign will soon be featured inside CAPS and will continue to be a great representation of the Bruin community and all the intersectional identities that make us who we are. Active Minds UCLA would like to thank all of the students who attended our events during the week. We hope that these events were insightful and a space for members of cultural communities as well as allies to learn about mental health representations in many communities and cultures, the various existing mental health resources, and the important steps we can take in order to lessen the mental health stigma within these communities so we may better support one another at UCLA.
It’s 2018 Stigmafighters! We hope Fall quarter treated you well, and that you’re all settled in for the next two quarters to come! We have exciting things planned for Active Minds these next few months. But first, let’s take a look at everything we did this quarter!
The quarter started with an awesome opportunity to be a part of the 13 Reasons Why program in which actor Justin Prentice and Alisha Boe discussed the negative and positive aspects to the way the show addressed various mental health issues. As Active Minds, we were there to answer any questions and provide resources to the UCLA community. We also joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at the Santa Monica Out of the Darkness Walk to provide further resources and support to the Los Angeles community, a touching way to begin the year!
As the quarter unravelled and our new members joined us after the wonderful committee sorting night put on by our membership committee, we got to know each other at the pumpkin painting social in October, lots of snacks and a relaxing way to escape midterms for a few hours!
Another highlight of the quarter was the amazing Mental Health Fair put on by the Events Committee. As students walked through Bruin Walk on their way to class, they stopped to play carnival games designed to educate students about various mental health topics, grab some mental health resources, and bond with fellow UCLA students. Many students took a minute to take a picture in our self-care themed photo frame, and we all know self care is always a good look!
During November, we joined The Dashew Center and developed the event Bruin Resilience: Wellness Social for International Students to welcome our fellow international students to campus in hope that they could feel more at home here at UCLA. There were insightful comments made by the international student panel and allowed for students to discuss needs within the international student community, network and make new friends, and be able to address their mental health experiences to a community. In addition, our executive director was featured in a Bruin Family Insights webinar with Counseling and Psychological Services executive director Dr. Nicole Green organized by the UCLA Parent & Family Programs. The webinar was titled Bruin Family Insights - Addressing Mental Health & Wellness and provided Bruin Families an opportunity to understand how the pressures of college influence student mental health. Families were able to learn to recognize signs of distress and mental health concerns in their student and learn strategies for helping students cope with these issues. Active Minds was able to offer the student perspective while Dr. Green offered a clinical perspective, fostering an important conversation surrounding student mental health.
Our last big event of the quarter was Diversity and Depression put on by the wonderful Education Committee. This event brought together people from all walks of life and explained that we are one and not the same. It was an important way to express that it doesn’t matter and will never matter what your background is, you can struggle with depression, or any other mental illness for that matter, it has nothing to do with your identity.
We were lucky enough to be able to end the quarter with two inspiring guest speakers. First we had Guillermo Ojeda, a graduate student at the Luskin School of Public Affairs who informed us about his experience pursuing a mental health related career within the public affairs field. Furthermore, Active Minds is very excited to be working with him in the following quarters to develop the undergraduate to graduate mentorship program. During week 9 we had the lovely UCLA alumni, Jo Pessin treat us with great mindfulness activities, which proved to be great way to start the finals buzz. We are so grateful for the opportunity to have heard such a variety of mental health related themes throughout the quarter.
To conclude the quarter on a great note we collaborated with the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital located next to the Ronald Reagan Hospital for a donation drive. Students came together to collect dozens of goods for the patients and they were delivered to the hospital before the holidays. We’d like to thank everyone who donated for their generosity.
We hope all of you have found a community here within Active Minds, as we are so pleased that you are all here and look forward to the things ahead. Next quarter, our committees have some exciting events, networking nights, and workshops planned.
Always remember each quarter has its ups and downs, and the Active Minds family will be here through it all. Find some time for self care even when classes seem like they are starting to crack down on you, because you are important. Thanks for all your hard work fighting the mental health stigma this quarter, and we look forward to continuing the fight in Winter quarter!
Active Minds is a mental health advocacy group on UCLA's campus that aims to change the conversation around mental health! Our goal is to educate and inspire the Bruin community to speak out about mental health. We are one of the twelve committees under the Student Wellness Commission on campus.