Stomp Out the Stigma: Raising Our Awareness of Mental Health

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2021, four intrepid YU undergraduates stepped up to the lectern—albeit a virtual one—at the annual Stomp Out the Stigma to share with an online audience of more than 300 people their emotional and psychological challenges.

Now in its seventh year, Stomp Out the Stigma is co-organized by the  YU Counseling Center and the YU chapter of Active Minds, a national advocacy group that creates safe spaces for college students to discuss mental health issues.

 

Active Minds Logo

 

Over the course of 90 minutes, this year’s speakers spoke candidly about their many mental health challenges as part of a common goal to destigmatize conditions that are often met with shame—debilitating anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive behaviors, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder—by creating an empowering message of openness and compassion. The mantra of the evening: “You are not in it alone!”

In a moving introduction to the event, Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, described how the goals and energies behind this annual gathering reflect the principles of Torat Adam and Torat Chesed in action, how “these two values—the infinite worth of each individual and our sense of caring and responsibility—are at the forefront of tonight’s program.” He went on to thank the organizers and especially the speakers who, by telling their stories have brought us together as a community.

“The word ‘hero’ gets tossed around pretty easily these days,” noted Etan Neiman ’17SB, who has attended Stomp Out the Stigma since its inception. “But I have to say that each of these speakers became a community leader tonight in pushing back against the harmful and dangerous stigmas surrounding mental health.”

For many, the event took on added significance because of the isolation and apprehension that the pandemic has caused. “I think COVID has opened up students’ eyes to the immense value of our mental health,” said Sarina Hilowitz ’22S, co-president of YU’s Active Minds. “Each of our four speakers talked about its impact on their own mental health, and that’s really important for students to hear right now. Many attended because they are looking to understand what they themselves may be going through.”

Dr. Debra Alper, a psychologist at the YU Counseling Center and one of the event’s organizers, remarked that the size of the online audience is “indicative of our students’ desire to create a more compassionate and inclusive environment. Events like this, coupled with the efforts of Active Minds and the professional guidance offered by our Counseling Center, are forces for positive change in how we regard mental health.”