by Rachel Haber
On February 13, 2019, Yeshiva University held its ninth annual Stomp Out the Stigma event. Organized by Active Minds, the Yeshiva Student Union, and the Stern College for Women Student Council, Stomp Out the Stigma aims to normalize and open the discussion about mental health by providing a platform for the very students who attend YU to speak about their experiences with mental illness.
After weeks of practicing their speeches and preparing to recount their darkest times with 450 of their peers, five brave souls took to the podium and shared their stories. Each story was unique, and touched on topics such as OCD, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and depression. As one of the most well-attended events of the year, hundreds of students poured into 501 in Furst to speak about their past and current struggles with mental illness.
When asked what she hopes the student body will gain from the event, speaker Molly Meisels (SCW ‘20) reflected that “I hope that with my story, students will come forward to share theirs. My hope is that my narrative will be the reason someone recognizes their worth, goes to therapy, and remains resilient.” She continued saying, “Last night also taught me how strong the stigmas still are. As vital as speaking was for me, I was still afraid. I was afraid because issues like ours are not vocalized proudly. I hope that with the tremendous strides taken last night, we can take even larger leaps in the future.”
Another speaker, who wishes not to be named, expressed their appreciation at the event turnout. “It was so overwhelming and so beautiful to see how many people came to hear my story, along with my peer’s stories. I hope that this trend of support will continue on campus for people struggling with mental illness, but also for people in general. People should know that they are not alone, that’s what Stomp Out the Stigma is all about.”
Students were asked after the event what they gained from the stories shared by the five speakers. One student, Eli Ginsberg, YC ’19 said, “I learned two different things. First, no matter how far you fall, it’s never too late to rise up again. All these speakers were at the edge of a cliff, but they backed away from it and hiked an uphill battle to recovery. Secondly, the event taught me to be very sensitive to everyone and recognize that people are going through their own personal battles.”
Active Minds club member and videographer Sophie Ostrow said that “the event enlightened me to the still very pungent problem of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Some of my best friends courageously stood up there and told their story of suffering and struggle, some things I didn’t even know about.”
When asked about what she will do to combat the stigma, Ostrow continued, “I’m not only going to speak out about the importance of sharing our own mental health stories but encourage others to do the same. Whether I encounter someone who is suffering or someone who isn’t, I want everyone to know that they have a safe space in me to confide with. We need to erase the lines between mental illness and ourselves now, not soon. Now.”
After the event, multiple mental health awareness clubs were stationed outside to offer support for the cause and immediately encourage people to start stomping, so to speak. Representative from To Write Love on Her Arms Yeshiva University Chapter Sarah Haber said that the event, “gave people the perspective they need in order to end this stigma once and for all. Seeing their peers up there, friends that they didn’t even know were struggling, was very powerful and makes this fight personal.”
The goal of Stomp Out the Stigma is to destigmatize mental illness and make it easier for those struggling to get help. Elana Luban, SCW ‘19, reflected on the inspiration that the event provided her to have everyday conversations about mental health, saying “a few days after the event I ran into two friends at the counseling center and it felt like a completely casual encounter.” She continued, “I speak for myself and a lot of my friends when I say that I would have loved to share my experiences at Stomp Out the Stigma, but whether our experiences with mental health are too ‘boring’ or we are not ready yet we look up to those who did and hope to follow their example in normalizing the conversation about mental health.”