By Jake Sheckter
On Wednesday February 5th, over five hundred Yeshiva University students, alumni, and faculty from the Wilf and Beren campuses gathered together for Active Minds’ annual “Stomp Out the Stigma” event, created to help eradicate the stigma that surrounds mental illness, especially in the Jewish community. The event consisted of three Yeshiva University students, along with Coach Mike Sweetney of the YU men’s basketball team, sharing their history and stories of battling and overcoming mental illness. President Ari Berman was in attendance, as was Dean Wozniak of Wurzweiler, representatives from the YU Counseling Center, and various YU Roshei Yeshiva.
Hadassah Penn, co-president of Active Minds, explained the goal of the event: “We aim to educate students about mental illness, to show support for those who are suffering, and to encourage people who are struggling to reach out for help…No student should ever feel alone in their mental health struggles or afraid to speak up for fear of being judged.”
As instances of mental illness increase, so too does the fight for awareness. One in five U.S. adults will suffer from a mental health condition during their lifetime, and countless family members and friends will be affected in the process. It is not only the condition that’s difficult to live with, but also the social isolation. As Penn told the crowd during the event’s opening statement, “Mental illness is real and common. It’s just as debilitating as physical illness, and just as deserving of treatment — but people are afraid to discuss it. Our goal tonight is to change that.”
Even with hundreds of students, faculty, friends, and family in attendance, there was not a whisper in the crowd when the speakers took the podium. Attendees were silent and supportive of the speakers and the night’s cause. As one student said afterwards, “To see hundreds of people in the same room be so quiet and respectful for the students sharing their stories of mental illness was absolutely incredible. It definitely makes me proud of my peers and the entire Yeshiva University family.”
One of the major messages of the night, as reinforced by the four speakers, was not to think of one’s own mental health issues as insignificant in comparison to others’. Mental illness need not be unbearable in order to be deserving of help. Or as one of the speakers put it: “Don’t wait for something big or dramatic to happen to reach out for help. Mental illness is not one big thing, it’s a buildup of small things.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please know that you are not alone and that there are ways to get help.
The YU Counseling Center for the Wilf Campus can be reached at (646) 592-4200. Located at 500 West 185th Street, Furst Hall, Suite 520.
The YU Counseling Center for the Beren Campus can be reached at (646) 592-4210. Located at 215 Lexington Ave., Suite 1303 (between E32nd & E33rd streets).
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 in the United States.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255.
Photo: The crowd at Stomp Out the Stigma
Photographer: David Khabinsky