Stomp Out The Stigma: Empowering Voices, Changing Minds

By: Ally Hadge  |  March 27, 2024

By Ally Hadge, Features Editor

Every year, Yeshiva University in partnership with the Active Minds Club, conducts an event called Stomp Out The Stigma, where students come together to hear a select few students who speak about their experiences with mental health. Stomp Out The Stigma is one of the biggest events held in YU with over 500 students attending each year. As previously mentioned, the event is hosted and run by the Active Minds Club, a student-run club at YU, that works to promote education and awareness of mental illness to destigmatize its deviance. 

The event began with Avraham Frolich (YC ‘25), one of the co-presidents of the Active Minds Club, introducing the goal of the event, as well as the club’s other presidents Yael Berger (SCW ‘24) and Maia Purow (SCW ‘25) made an appearance. He spoke about how important it is for students who struggle with mental illness to know that they are not alone and that they can feel comfortable reaching out for help. Next, President Ari Berman spoke about how the Jewish community has been going through an extremely difficult time since October 7th. He discussed the communal decline in mental health and how no one has been quite the same since. Then, YU’s Counseling Center Director, Dr. Yael Muskat, encouraged students to get in touch with the Counseling Center to schedule therapy sessions and emphasized how much they value and want to be there for the students. Dr. Muskat then introduced Jeffery Schottenstein, who founded the Program for Resilience at Ohio State University, to help students with mental illness. To start his speech, he began with a metaphor asking the audience if they liked his new jacket. He went on to tell the audience that appearances are all a person may see; a person may look well and appear to be doing well,  but that is not always the case with what is going on inside. Each speaker had their points to raise and address, and they all provided a segway into the three student speakers’  speaking about their personal stories. 

Each year, many students apply to speak at the event, but ultimately only three students are chosen to share their struggles and journeys battling with mental health. This year’s event showcased two students from the Beren campus and one from the Wilf campus. Each speaker was partnered with a liaison to guide them through writing, editing, and delivering their speech. The first student speaker, introduced by former stomper and liaison Rikki Kolodny (SCW ‘24), was Ruchama Benhamou (SCW ‘24). Ruchama spoke of the hardships of having anxiety, depression, and OCD, and the stark contrasts between outward perception and inner reality. “The facade we often present to the world can sometimes overshadow the truth of our inner struggles. My journey has taught me a valuable lesson—one that I believe resonates with many of us here today: the way we see ourselves isn’t always based on fact. We are often the most critical of ourselves, yet we fail to recognize our own strength and resilience. So we struggle, alone. But loneliness is an ironic paradox. Because, we all experience it, together at the same time yet we rarely acknowledge it openly. But I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. Your struggles, your pain—they are shared experiences. And in breaking the silence, in speaking our truth, we find solidarity and strength,” she declared. The second speaker was Deena Zar (SSSB ‘26), who was introduced by her liaison Miriam Bluth (SCW ‘24). Deena spoke of the strength and resilience she gained through her battle with anxiety and anorexia throughout her life. “Every single person in this room is worthy of life. You all have a unique mission and purpose in this world. Even if you can’t see this purpose today, I’m telling you, it’s there, and it’s one hundred percent worth fighting for,” she emphasized. Lastly, Sam Weinburg (YC ‘25), introduced by his liaison Eli Novick (YC ‘26), spoke about the intense hardship with depression and survivor’s guilt from the loss of his close friend Donny Morris in the Mount Meron tragedy in 2021. “No one, whether they knew Donny personally or not, had escaped the overwhelming sense of communal mourning that struck our world. But personally, I, like Barbie, started to become plagued with irrepressible thoughts of death; my own, that of those around me, of those I cared deeply about. I became obsessed with literature, film, music, and anything that touched on feelings of grief. Death’s immediacy, its urgency, its profoundly absurd conclusivity, seemed to be creeping in everyone and everything, he stated.”

Through their stirring words and eloquent presentations, the speakers effectuated the purpose of this event, in spreading awareness and eliminating the poor attitudes, discrimination, and misconceptions that surround mental health issues. Through their resilience and vulnerability, they achieved the goal of this event, to take steps to change communal attitudes about mental health, and rather promote understanding, support, care, and acceptance for those suffering with mental health challenges.  

The event left the room of students speechless. Every speaker had a profound effect on the audience, altering their perceptions of mental health. Everyone came to the realization that it is crucial to check in on their friends to see how they are doing but also to check in on themself.   The event advised students to always put themselves first and prioritize their mental health. After hearing each story, it was acknowledged how important it is to seek help and make changes early on so that there is not a spiral effect. It became clear after hearing each person’s story how crucial it is to get support and start making changes as soon as possible to avoid getting progressively worse. The event was a huge success, and there are plans to continue it in the upcoming years to continue to raise awareness and alter the opinions of individuals who associate mental health negatively. 

To all of our student speakers, we thank you for sharing your stories with us.