Getting real, inside and out


Photo credit: KK Interchuck

Business administration student Vantha Sao’s art presentation on post-traumatic stress disorder features a “poker face” mask.

KK Interchuck, Features Co-Editor

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, San Diego Mesa College students and faculty hosted “Getting Real Inside & Out,” an event created in an effort to reduce mental health stigma. Students, faculty, and staff members were invited to walk around the 4th floor of the Student Services building to get more in-depth information on different mental illnesses.

Students enrolled in one of Mesa’s interpersonal communications courses each made different poster presentations, some of which included descriptions of a specific topic, symptoms, causes and risk factors, as well as treatments. Additionally, each student decorated a mask that corresponded with their selected topic.

Business administration student Vantha Sao selected post-traumatic stress disorder. Sao had pamphlets regarding PTSD available at his booth, along with miniature bubble wand party favors. “I chose the bubbles so you can kind of visualize the breathing technique, which is called 4-7-8,” Sao said. According to Medical News Today, this breathing technique, which involves breathing in for four seconds, holding for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight, aims to help with a number of issues including easing anxiety, getting to sleep, and managing cravings.

Sao decorated his mask with a club and a spade over either eye to symbolize a poker face, and an on-off switch on the forehead. “Sometimes (those struggling with PTSD) can feel like they’re switched off or have to put on a poker face to cope,” he said.

Other students covered a multitude of other topics including anxiety and panic attacks, depression, postpartum depression, and alcoholism. Graphic design student Ella Flaherty took a more broad approach. At her booth, she offered self-health checklists for people to take. “Sometimes when you’re stressed out with school you forget to exercise or just lose sight of your goals,” she said.

Flaherty’s presentation also provided students with more information on the many services offered on campus. “You’d be surprised at how many resources are available at Mesa. They have crisis counseling and free therapists with an appointment, you just have to give them a call,” she said. “You never know when you might need that.”

Flaherty stressed the importance of prioritizing mental health by utilizing these resources and spreading the word. “Even if you’re not going through that, it’s good to know that it’s there… (and) you never know what people are going through,” she said.

“Getting Real Inside & Out” gave participating students the chance to exercise their creativity in the making of their masks and presentations, all while educating others on core information regarding certain mental illnesses. Attendees were also able to receive a complimentary lunch after visiting the stations, receiving stamps at each, and completing a short feedback survey. The event, which was a collaborative effort between Student Health Services and the Communications Studies Department at Mesa, was made possible by the California Chancellor’s Office Mental Health Grant.

If you weren’t able to make it to this event, Student Health Services also puts together the regular “Comfort Tent” event during the weeks of midterms and finals. Here students can find a place to relax and unwind, as well as learn techniques for staying calm and managing stress. The “Comfort Tent” will be up from May 13-17 and can usually be found just outside of the Learning Resource Center on campus.