Loyola hosts event to ‘unmask’ stigma around mental health

Student participate in Loyolas Dinner En Mask event as part of a campaign to destigmatize mental health on college campuses. The event featured a performance from rapper and Loyola alumnus Alfred Banks.

Julia Ferro | Contributing Photographer

Student participate in Loyola’s ‘Dinner En Mask’ event as part of a campaign to destigmatize mental health on college campuses. The event featured a performance from rapper and Loyola alumnus Alfred Banks.

To raise awareness about mental health, Loyola University New Orleans’ Bateman Team and the Campaign to Change Direction hosted an event Tuesday to celebrate the end of a month-long “Unmask the Stigma” campaign.

Loyola’s Bateman Team, a Public Relations Student Society of America group, competes against teams around the country to create full-scale public campaigns for nonprofit organizations. In February, the team joined forces with Campaign to Change Direction, a national initiative working towards changing the culture surrounding mental health.

Loyola senior and Bateman Team member Ciarra de Leon has been working on the campaign since October.

“We hope that through our events and social media, we make talking about mental health a more comfortable thing for people to do,” de Leon said in an interview with The Loyola Maroon. “We want to show that people in our community are supportive of mental health, not trying to hide it or push it under the rug.”

The Unmask the Stigma campaign event was called “Dinner en Mask.” The outdoor, invite-only event asked attendees to wear green to raise awareness about mental health. This is a take on Dinner en Blanc, in which participants wear all white.

At the event, students signed their names on paper masks pledging to unmask the stigma. The smaller masks were woven into a giant mask to be hung on Loyola’s campus. Additionally, attendees were encouraged to utilize social media through event hashtags and Snapchat filters to raise awareness about mental health outside of the event.

Julia Ferro | Contributing Photographer
Attendees of the ‘Dinner En Mask’ event signed paper masks pledging their support in efforts to ‘unmask’ the stigma around mental health.

To engage the attendees in a discussion about mental illness, cards with conversation starters and five signs of mental illness were handed out. Bateman Team Media Contact Lauren Saizan said she hopes that the handouts will provide students with knowledge to “start the conversation about mental health around the dinner table” and in other facets of life.

Rapper and Loyola alumnus Alfred Banks came to perform songs that he had dedicated to mental health advocacy following his brother’s lengthy battle with schizophrenia and subsequent suicide.

Attendees from both Tulane and Loyola enjoyed the performance and the message of the event.

“I have had a lot of friends over the years that have suffered from depression and anxiety, so I think it’s really important to talk about it in order to reduce the stigma about mental health,” Tulane freshman Abigail Bennett said.

The Bateman Team thinks the campaign will have a long-term effect on the ways that the Loyola and Tulane communities think about mental illnesses.

“We all have our own mental health to take care of, and it shouldn’t be something we are afraid to talk about,” de Leon said.

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