Medaille College is a private, nonsectarian college with campuses in Buffalo, Rochester and online. Medaille focuses on success of students by offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in hands-on, practitioner-based learning environments.
We recently spoke with Kenya K. Hobbs, vice president for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Title IX coordinator, and co-director of Medaille’s Honors Program about the college’s commitment to mental wellness.
Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?
Partnering with the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition is another opportunity for us to communicate the importance of promoting healthy perspectives on mental health, and Medaille is honored to assist in advancing this important initiative that impacts so many people. Additionally, Medaille’s Department of Counseling & Clinical Psychology, one of the College’s most robust academic departments, is also playing a role by educating the next generation of clinical psychologists and mental health counselors. Furthermore, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant the department received, the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program continues to allow Medaille’s clinical mental health counseling students and graduates to offer services to underserved populations across Buffalo, Rochester, and the surrounding regions. This has helped increase awareness and access to treatment among those who have not previously had such assistance.
How are people with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?
We have held space for students to discuss the impact of stigma around mental health and how it has impacted them. We’ve held two events in the last few months that really provided further insights as to why we need this initiative. First, we coordinated and hosted an event themed “Be Kind to Your Mind,” which included a panel-focused discussion where students were able to share and receive information on the importance of seeking out assistance and recognizing that they are not alone. The second program was a part of our signature Open Mic series, which for this semester has been themed ‘Hot Wings, Hot Topics.” The driving idea behind this open mic session was to informally hold space for students, faculty and staff to collectively decompress and provide support to one another around the challenges of living with mental health concerns. Our Director of Counseling Services was on hand in case someone requested professional assistance in dealing with and coping through any situations. Through that experience we heard about how various participants have been ostracized from family members because of not understanding or not wanting to validate the experiences of the participants. Some shared that they lived for years without even telling their closest friends about some of the things that they had been going through for fear of being looked at differently. Some folks shared that they have learned how to be better advocates for themselves and others living with mental health issues by speaking when someone uses stigmatizing words like “crazy,” “psycho,” “nuts” and “insane” in everyday conversations. Some shared stories of how they have adopted a stance that allows them to encourage more learning about mental health issues in their peer groups, so they can help replace myths and fear with truth and understanding.
What impact is the Let’s Talk Stigma Campaign having in the community?
The Let’s Talk Campaign has generated increased interest in young people seeking out services of our campus Wellness Center. It has also opened the dialogue between students and faculty about the ways in which faculty members can be more supportive and understanding of the challenges faced by students living with mental health issues. One of the biggest benefits the initiative has had is on people in the Medaille community recognizing that, just like physical health, mental health also requires maintenance.