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Mental Health Monologues give a voice to students

On Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., the University of Maine chapter of Active Minds hosted the Mental Health Monologues in Neville Hall. This year, the Monologues consisted of 10 individuals who shared stories about their personal experience with mental health and illness.

The Monologues are intended to give people a platform to share their mental health stories in a positive environment. The goal is to encourage individuals’ confidence through support, while also allowing the speaker and members of the audience to know that they are not alone.

The Mental Health Monologues are based on “The Vagina Monologues,” a play written by Eve Ensler, that raises awareness about violence against women. Both are storytelling events that aim to raise awareness about stigmatized topics in society.

Performers told stories on a wide range of topics, including trauma, depression and therapy. One story detailed an individual’s struggle with an eating disorder. They explained the comfort and control they felt while combating anorexia, saying that their eating disorder felt like a warm blanket that took them years to shed. One performer discussed bipolar disorder through various letters signed “sincerely yours…” written from the point of view of herself and others that had experience with mental illness. Another detailed the mental health issues that followed an abusive relationship. Others explained the importance of a good therapist or how they have battled with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or sensory processing issues.

Performers shared their stories in the front of the room and as they revealed more details about their mental health, the crowd fell silent. Some audience members loudly applauded as the performers finished, others shed tears and others rushed to the front of the room to embrace friends after they bravely shared their stories.

All the stories shared relayed a message of hope and optimism. The message “It is not okay today, but it will be one day” was displayed across the shirts of Active Minds members.

“Active Minds has helped me through a lot. I was introduced to some of the most warm and friendly people that I have ever come in contact with,” Shayla Kleisinger, a fourth-year bioengineering student said. “They have taught me so much about myself and taught me that it is okay to have bad days and you don’t always need to put on a smile. If you really need to talk about something hard, you have people who are going to be there for you through it all.”

Active Minds is a nonprofit organization that seeks to change the stigma surrounding mental health. They have established 450 chapters around the United States and have enabled over 15,000 students to serve as educators and advocates for mental health.

The UMaine Active Minds members are “working to utilize the student voice to change the conversation about mental health… by developing awareness of mental health issues, provide information and resources regarding mental health,” according to the chapter’s website.

On campus, Active Minds often tables at events where they aim to spread awareness about mental illnesses. They also put on events, like the Monologues to help start positive conversations about mental health. They also work to create an environment where individuals feel safe and comfortable sharing their story.

“If [a person] just needs someone to be there or someone to talk to, we’re a support net. We’re a family,” Kleisinger said.

The UMaine offers many wellness resources to students, including the Counseling Center located on the back side of the Cutler Health Center. The Counseling Center puts on workshops and presentations to help educate individuals about a variety of mental health topics. They also formed the Mind Spa, dedicated to helping students handle the stress and demands of being a college student. The Mind Spa is located in the Memorial Union and is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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