The Abnormal Psychology class here at Gustavus has been hard at work planning and organizing the second annual Mental Health Awareness Fair. The fair, dubbed “Chill Out: Mental Health Awareness Fair,” will take place on Nov. 14 from 6-8 p.m. and will be held in the St. Peter Community Center in order to encourage community involvement. Senior Madison Heckel, one of the key planners of the event, stresses the importance of opening the event up to the public.
“We really wanted to expand this to the community and not just keep it to Gustavus students. I think that younger people are much more open to the idea of mental health and mental illness, and so, there is less of a stigma with younger people, and it’s middle-aged people and older adults who are a little ashamed to go and get help. This is a way to open up that conversation within the community,” Heckel said.
The fair will feature many student-sponsored booths ranging from the topics of concussions to suicide awareness. Many organizations from the St. Peter and Mankato area, as well as a few from the Twin Cities, will be at the fair, providing information about the services that they offer. Issues presented at the fair will vary greatly, ranging from anxiety and stress prevention to the identification and treatment of more serious mental health concerns.
Free yoga, pilates, and meditation classes are sure to be a popular aspect of the fair, as well as the many door prizes and the free food that will be available. Free childcare as well as a child activity booth will be offered in order to attempt to make the fair more accessible to families.
“I think it’s a very well rounded event and that there are things for everyone. We have children’s booths, we have daycare, if parents want to go. But we also have things for Gustavus students, so it’s not just for adults. We basically are looking for people of all ages and all types, it’s not for any specific type of person,” Heckel said.
Dr. Marie Walker, professor of the Abnormal Psychology class and member of the Psychological Science Department, hopes that this year’s fair will yield even more positive responses than what followed last year’s event, which had about 200 participants.
“It started out with my abnormal psych class. They were trying to figure out a way to help people learn about mental health, but not feel stigmatized; not feel like they were being centered out or noticed because they were finding it out, so we thought, let’s create this mental health fair that’s kind of fun. It’s focused on preventing mental health problems, not as much on solving big issues,” Walker said.
The Abnormal Psychology class, offered both fall and spring Semesters, intends to make the fair a permanent yearly event.
“We applied for a grant through the Coca Cola foundation. In order to try to have some continuing money that will be available to keep it going,” Walker said.
Senior Marissa Fretheim, a member of the Abnormal Psychology class, is excited about the improvements that are to come with this year’s fair.
“We are trying to improve a bunch of different things. We have a list that participants and visitors gave us at the end of last year, and we’re trying to make it so that people are less afraid to go and less afraid to take information and to ask questions,” Fretheim said.
Last year’s fair set the bar high for this year’s students, as its success inspired the community of Le Sueur to put on their own mental health awareness fair, which took place in September.
“We are hoping to keep that momentum going and help increase awareness and opportunities for more people,” Heckel said.
The goal of the fair is to be relevant to Gustavus students and community members alike.
“Everybody should go. It doesn’t matter if you have a mental health issue. Everybody obviously knows someone who has one. It’s a great resource if you have it or if you just need to be a friend,” Fretheim said.