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On the sofas in my home theater, I watched Riley struggle to come to terms with her new home in Inside Out, John Nash contribute to game theory in spite of his frequent hallucinations in A Beautiful Mind, and Nina differentiate reality from fantasy as she grappled with perfecting her stage presence in Black Swan.
I am by no means a film-buff, familiar with the every decision of directors and screenwriters. But I understand the power of films in exposing their audiences to new, provocative subject matter.
The Rice Alliance for Mental Health Awareness (RAMHA) also must have understood the capacity of movies to teach as they had chosen to play Silver Linings Playbook to bring more attention to mental illness. Rice was recently ranked first in the nation for happiest students by the Princeton Review, but there are sure to be cases of students who may not feel completely content. Especially in the midst of a “happy” campus, students may be discouraged or self-conscious about seeking help since they may feel as though they are the only ones suffering.
Rice’s situation regarding student mental health resonates with that of an issue plaguing my own high school at home. One of the best in state, my high school often unintentionally pressures students to continue trends of excellence and success, causing surges in student stress levels and a general decline in health. Not wanting to be the first to speak up, many students pretended like they were fine. But anonymous surveys conducted by the school showed otherwise.
Beta, our school’s service organization, partnered with our administration to propose a solution—Stress Awareness Week, a biannual event that would bring awareness to mental illness. With events like Stress Break—when classrooms played Inside Out during a designated break time between second and third period—and Pajama Day, Stress Awareness Week hoped to engage the entire student body in fun events that also would stimulate conversations regarding mental health. As the Vice President of Beta, I worked to coordinate another event—inviting therapists to inform about mental illness and local counseling centers so that students are acquainted with available support systems and resources. When our school decided to continue Stress Awareness Week, I also began serving as a liaison between the administration and students to create policies that wouldn’t sacrifice student health for quality education.
I hope to bring my own experiences of handling mental health at my high school to Rice either by joining RAMHA or by creating a new student initiative that would provide peer-to-peer counseling. Through campaigns that show films touching upon mental health or prompt students to share their experiences with others, more students can grasp how common mental illness is, as well as how many people care and are willing to listen. Rice prides itself on a tight-knit student body, and I want to ensure that my peers, underclassmen and upperclassmen, are comfortable enough to speak out and receive the help they need.
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