The ‘It’s Okay’ campaign was created last spring to inform students that it's okay to feel anxious or depressed.
“Life is stressful, college is stressful,” Counseling Director Shari Robinson said. “Students can’t perform at their optimum level academically if they’re not mentally healthy, emotionally healthy, psychologically healthy.”
Health Promotion and Communications Specialist Amelia Cave was a leading supervisor in the It’s Okay campaign formed by three students spring quarter of 2016. Cave works through the Prevention and Wellness services and co-supervises the mental health group THRIVE.
Thriving means living a healthy, resilient, inclusive, vibrant and engaged life.
“The goal was to spark conversation,” Cave said.
The student creators of the campaign came together with the intention to help normalize and destigmatize mental illness, Cave said. All three of the students had previous or existing experiences with anxiety and depression.
The three alumnis met in class together and found statistics demonstrating just how prevalent anxiety and depression are as co-occurring illnesses, Cave said.
“Our Western students are feeling anxious and they’re feeling depressed. Stress and anxiety are the tops reasons that students have listed as affecting or impacting their academic performance.”
The students created a website with resources to information about anxiety and depression and advertised the link on campus with banners, posters and mirror stickers promoting the message that it’s okay to be experiencing these feelings, Cave said. They also incorporated story quotes from a wide variety of students to highlight the differences in which students experience anxiety and depression, Cave said.
The National College Health Assessment is conducted on Western’s campus every two years. Last year, and in previous years, it has consistently found that these feelings of anxiety and depression are so common among on college students, Cave said.
“Our Western students are feeling anxious and they’re feeling depressed,” Cave said. “Stress and anxiety are the tops reasons that students have listed as affecting or impacting their academic performance.”
The nature of a college environment is stressful, and it’s important that students understand they have resources, Cave said.
“It was so great to be able to work with those students and I was so thrilled,” Cave said. “They were so passionate about it and they created such a fantastic product.”
Though the three students that created the campaign have since graduated, the ‘It’s Okay’ movement received a lot of student feedback and could potentially continue next fall, Cave said. She also hopes to collaborate the campaign with on-campus partners, such as To Write Love on Her Arms, BRAVE, a suicide prevention campaign and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“My hope with fall implementation of an ‘It’s Okay’ social media and print campaign is to highlight some of these resources early, and especially when freshmen come to campus for the first time,” Cave said.