UGBC, SLAM! Collaboration Will Place A Spotlight On Mental Health At BC

This Thursday, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and BC SLAM! will collaborate for SLAM! the Stigma, a spoken word event meant to highlight the issue of mental health on campus. The event, the second in UGBC’s Mental Health spotlight, will feature performances from members of SLAM!,  a BC spoken word poetry group founded last year, as well as an open mic that will be open to students.

The event’s organizers want to highlight student experiences with mental health, raise student awareness to the problem of mental health, and examine and begin to remove the stigma around mental health.

“Hearing people you know talk about it is important.”

Thomas Downing, the assistant director of mental health in student initiatives and CSOM ’18, said the idea for a slam poetry event spotlighting mental illness first came to UGBC after he watched a viral poem called “OCD,” performed by Neil Hilborn. In the poem, Hilborn discusses his struggles with OCD, and how it affected his relationships. Downing approached BC SLAM! about collaborating earlier this semester, and the group agreed to perform.

“SLAM! the Stigma is about telling our stories about mental health,” said Kellie O’Leary, a member of BC SLAM! who will be performing this Thursday and MCAS ’17. “The point of [the event] is to have people feel comfortable talking about it.”

O’Leary discussed how difficult it could be for a person suffering from a mental illness on a college campus like Boston College. She said there is a tremendous amount of stress and expectation placed upon students, and where students are “pressured to be perfect.”

She said that environments like BC make it much more difficult for people with mental illnesses to speak up and seek help. O’Leary, as well as other members of BC SLAM!, feel as though spoken word is a powerful way to deliver the message that people suffering from mental health are not alone and can open themselves up and discuss these issues with others.

“Spoken word is such a great way to express thoughts and feelings,” Karina Herrera, the vice president of BC SLAM!, said.

Many other members of the club agreed, echoing the sentiment that spoken word poetry creates a judgement-free zone where people can truly express their thoughts and feelings.

“It’s a safe place where you can feel comfortable talking about it, because everybody has something they’re struggling with, ” O’Leary said.

To her, spoken word is a way of relaying inner truths, and hearing people express things that are important and meaningful to them.

The first event of UGBC’s mental health spotlight, a performance by mental advocate and comedian Kevin Breel, occurred earlier this semester. Breel, who rose to prominence through a TEDx talk he delivered in 2013, spoke about his history with mental health and the difficulties the existing stigma against mental health creates for high school and college students that might be suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

UGBC also sponsored an event in late September called BC Ignites: Mental Health—a student speaker forum meant to address mental health issues at BC.

Megan Flynn, the director of Mental Health Programming for UGBC and MCAS ’17, has been a part of organizing many of the mental health events at BC over the past semester. The event is aimed at broadening the audiences and creating conversations around the topic of mental health on college campuses to make it a more approachable issue.

“Hearing people you know talk about it is important,” Flynn said. “It’s not something we have to hide or be afraid of talking about.”

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

November 4, 2015