Mental Health Event Works to Alleviate Stigma

By Simon Albaugh – YAN

Over a hundred people packed the gymnasium at Hanley International Academy to hear speakers talk on the theme of Mental Health Awareness. The topic was chosen by host Omar Thabet, along with others at Hanley, because of its importance in the schools.

            “As a PE Teacher, I feel that mental health is often more important than physical health,” Thabet said.

Its importance cannot be overstated. Omar Thabet cited the World Health Organization statistic that 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental health crisis throughout their lives. That’s a quarter of the world’s population. According to many experts in the field, this is evenly distributed among socioeconomic statuses, cultures and identities.

Speakers at the event focused on their role within a broader network of health professionals. Ranging from those on the front lines of mental health work, like counselor Jasmine Stephens, to those who see themselves as a smaller piece of the network, like Physical Therapist Dr. Leython Williams.

Jasmine Stephens focused on giving actionable knowledge for the people in attendance. Her talk focused on bullying, its effects on children and remedies for its erasure. “The goal for me is to bring awareness to the signs and symptoms of bullying,” Stephens said.

Stephens grew up in Romulus Michigan before she pursued the extensive education needed to become a Mental Health Professional. Her work involves a broad range of roles; sometimes working directly with clients and other times working with groups of foster children.

Bullying is a problem that has very tell-tale signs, according to Stephens’ talk. Unexplained bruises and loss of property is just a few of them. Along with those comes avoiding school and social situations and even feelings of hopelessness.

But the problem doesn’t start with those who find themselves being bullied. It’s the bullies themselves. Stephens didn’t shy away from highlighting the signs that could point to someone’s child being a bully in schools. Small things like blaming others for their problems, being hypercompetitive in nature and getting into fights often can all point to bigger problems in the child’s behavior.

“Bullies, you can always apologize to the people who you’ve bullied,” Stephens said.

Another speaker highlighted the importance of physical well-being. The overall health of a person can contribute to their sense of mental wellbeing, just as your mental wellbeing can influence your physical health.

“There’s no health without mental health,” Dr. Leython Williams said.

As an example, Leython cited the well-documented link between exercise and the mental well-being of a person. Those who exercise regularly will often have an easier time with anxiety, stress and other difficult feelings. Exercise can also decrease the need for harsh drugs that are used to treat pain for injuries.

Other speakers include Caleb Boswell, who is a student advisor for Washtenaw Community College, and Raja Ishmail. The event was held on Feb. 23.