For the third consecutive year, Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Rehabilitation & Human Services program seeks to bring students’ mental health to the forefront with a day dedicated to living stress free
By: Rachel Olszewski
When she began planning the first Mental Health Awareness Day (MHAD) two years ago, Melisa Naylor had no idea the impact it would be making on her students and the campus community.
“Throughout the course of my teaching career, I have seen so many students struggle academically because they are struggling in their personal lives. I wanted to help my students recognize that they need to take care of themselves emotionally and mentally, as well as physically, to be successful. Self-care is so important for our overall wellness. We need to learn how to manage stress so it doesn’t consume us and take away from living happy, healthy lives. We should all take time out of each day to take care of ourselves, and that is what MHAD is all about. This event encourages students, faculty, and staff to take a break and have some fun, relax, and just enjoy life for a moment.”
As an instructor in Rehabilitation & Human Services, Naylor has seen the public perception of mental health change dramatically in recent years, both in the community at large as well as the campus community.
“In my four years at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, I have seen there is truly a need to recognize mental health as a pertinent issue and as an overall component to one’s complete wellbeing. Our campus’ continued support of MHAD tells me that we’re making strides to meet this need for our students.”
Administration of Justice Senior Katie George couldn’t agree more, “I think MHAD is important to our campus because it is a brilliant way to get everyone together in a positive atmosphere full of fun and games. Who doesn't enjoy that? As a student, things can get very tense and stressful at times. MHAD is a way for everyone to let loose and enjoy themselves. Even the teachers get involved which I love!”
Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Mental Health Awareness Day 2017 will be held on Friday, October 20th this year and will feature activities from the previous two years such as a coloring station, a Hippo Chow Down inflatable, pumpkin decorating, mental health screening, and snacks.
Some of Naylor’s students threw out their ideal additions to MHAD:
“A faculty dunk tank!”
“Maybe a component of psychoeducation?”
“How about an egg toss?”
“MHAD lets students loosen up and forget about the stressors of school for the day, even if they only participate for an hour or so,” explains Junior Rehabilitation & Human Services major Lauren Dragon. “It gets your mind off endless homework and deadlines. It also gives us the opportunity to meet new friends, and hangout with old ones. And of course it always sparks a little friendly competition!”
Sophomore Elementary Education major Sara Swartz sums up the event for all her classmates, “MHAD is important at not only our campus, but at every campus. Mental health isn't something that is always talked about and most people experience some mental health issues during their lifetime whether it be depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, etc. If it was more talked about, there wouldn't be such a stigma around it because it can happen to anyone.”