Students from different backgrounds came together last week to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness by declaring different ways each student can individually promote mental wellness. 

On Tuesday, March 12, Art with Impact, a charity that promotes mental wellness, hosted a mental health seminar for students at Cal Poly Pomona. 

Movies for Mental Health is a two-hour interactive workshop to destigmatize issues regarding mental health, with the goal that “people should be how they are, and should be supported and loved, and we just want to be a part of that happening faster,” Natalie Patterson, the workshop facilitator said.

Patterson, a poet and teaching artist, was the first female producer of Da Poetry Lounge, a poetry venue in Los Angeles.

Before the presentation began, she asked students to “settle for a moment” and think about where they were before they got to the workshop, “where was it,” and “what did it feel like.”

Attendees watched three short films about personal experiences with mental illness. (Maya Hood / The Poly Post)

She wanted students to acknowledge that we all come from somewhere and she asked students to make a commitment to themselves to be fully present. 

“Mental health is personal; it’s a you thing,” Patterson said at the beginning of the presentation. “Nobody can be like ‘Hey, I think you’re …’ No, I determine how I feel, I determine what’s going on, and I am the expert of my own experience, not anyone else.” 

To gain a better understanding of mental health, she explored the two ways to think about mental health: mental illness and mental wellness. 

Mental illness is made up of the things that get in the way of people living their best life and mental wellness is composed of the things people can do to thrive, so both are interconnected. 

Throughout the seminar, Patterson posed questions to attendees where they shared their experiences and opinions on topics that overcome the stigma of mental illness and health. 

Students actively engaged the most with questions regarding the characteristics of characters who depict mental illness in films. Students were able to relate to the characteristics they were sharing. 

After the open discussion, attendees watched three short films submitted by people who share their personal experience dealing with mental illness to illuminate these types of conversations. 

Patterson addressed the triggers some students might feel when watching these films. The three topics covered in each of these films were anxiety, depression and purpose. 

“Having a filmmaker who is experiencing mental health or knows someone who is experiencing it and advocating is so powerful,” Patterson said. “I want to hear a first-hand experience, not what a textbook says about it—that’s cool and valid, but a lived experience for me is, I get that, I see that, I hear it.” 

The purpose of these films will hopefully provide relief for people around the world suffering in silence.

The second film called “Faded,” was created by Rebecca Chiafullo. 

Chiafullo narrated the film, which told the story of living with depression and heartbreak, while realizing that through these obstacles there’s beauty and hope in all of our lives because the sun is going to rise tomorrow, which is a desired event. 

The dialogue that followed these films caused participants to critically analyze and process the many challenges of life in a way that resonated with their own experiences. 

“If we’re not processing and we don’t know what’s happening or why it’s happening, it’s harder for us to come out of things,” Patterson said. 

At the end of the seminar, there was a panel composed of one student and three professionals from health and wellness resource centers on campus available for anyone who wished to take charge of their mental health. 

Julani Elliott, a fourth-year accounting student with a minor in women’s studies, shared a personal experience on attending counseling for the first time.

As a first-generation college student with lots of self-doubt about graduating, Elliott found herself sad every single day in class, crying and she couldn’t focus on her tasks. 

“It was an experience I needed for so long and when I was there, I was like why didn’t I do this [attend counseling] my first year,” Elliott said.

She was able to talk about anything she wanted to, from preventing her anxiety from affecting her in class to finding her own support system best suited for her. 

“It allowed me to focus on myself too, now it’s like this is who I am and it’s OK,” Elliott said. 

As tears fell down her face, Elliott described receiving care and support as something special, especially when care and support were missing in her life for so long. Now she feels empowered. 

“I can’t imagine my life if I didn’t go. Like, I would’ve been struggling the same way,” Elliott said. 

Lideth Ortega-Villalobos, a psychologist at the Counseling and Psychological Services, talked about the educational resources available to students who are unaware of where to start. 

“Students who come and use our services usually say that it helped them,” Villalobos said. “More than 200 people accessed our workshop last semester; this semester more people are coming in.” 

Movies for Mental Health creates an amazing support system for mental health and it encourages students to take advantage of the resources that are available to them on campus. 

This workshop gave students the opportunity to learn about resources they didn’t know they had access to, all while reinforcing that seeking help is not a bad thing. 

“Everyone else is losing if they’re not going to therapy, it’s like maintenance,” Patterson said. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, visit the Bronco Wellness Center available on campus in Building 46 or call for a screening with the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services at (909) 869-3220. 

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