On Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, the annual Stomp Out the Stigma event drew a standing-room-only crowd of students, staff and alumni in Furst Hall 501. Among those attending was Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University. What they heard throughout the evening was an empowering message on how to reduce the stigma and shame often associated with mental health issues and build communities of support.
Sponsored by the YU chapter of Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization that looks to create safe spaces for colleges students to discuss mental health issues, and the YU Counseling Center, the event provided students and others a platform to share their experiences coping with mental health problems that included post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and depression. Their deeply felt personal stories underscored the need to increase mental health awareness so that those who need help seek help when it’s needed and become drivers of change in how mental health is regarded in our daily lives.
Resonating loud and clear throughout the evening was the program’s central theme: “You are not alone.” Speakers emphasized the need to destigmatize mental health issues and passionately encouraged the audience to do so. This sentiment was echoed by Aaron Purow, co-president of the YU chapter of Active Minds, who noted that the annual event “allows for hundreds of individuals from YU and the greater Jewish community to recognize that mental health imperfections are a normal part of life and are meant to be treated with compassion and love.”
Among the speakers discussing their personal experiences was Michael Sweetney, assistant coach of YU men’s basketball team and a former NBA player, who candidly shared his challenges with depression and the steps he took to overcome them by “turning his greatest struggles into his greatest opportunities.”
Dr. Yael Muskat, director of the Counseling Center, made note of the impressive turnout, which she said “speaks volumes about the positive attitudes and supportive nature of Yeshiva University students,” a sentiment reinforced by Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, who described the event as “inspiring and impactful.” “I was deeply impressed,” he said, “with the courage of our students who spoke about their experiences, struggles and triumphs with managing mental illness and was very moved by the palpable feeling of acceptance and mutual respect within the room. That sense of connection and empathy made me especially proud of the thriving community of students we have at YU.”
Dr. Muskat went on to comment that “as awareness continues to build regarding the mental health crisis affecting thousands of young people across the country, events like this are becoming more and more important. Stomp Out the Stigma offers important guidance on how to remove the shame and isolation surrounding mental illness and build awareness that can save lives. And on a very practical level, it gives YU students valuable information on how to access timely and appropriate support from mental health resources, including the Yeshiva University Counseling Center, if and when the need arises.”