Introducing Mental Health Week

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Introducing Mental Health Week


Sean Tobin, SPS Chapter President, The Pennsylvania State University

Penn State SPS members enjoy in-person, relaxing outings during the fall of 2021. Photos courtesy of the chapter.Exams, research deadlines, meetings, homework . . . college is stressful. Juggling all of my obligations while maintaining a healthy social life and setting aside time for myself gets tougher every week, as more responsibilities pile up. And that’s not to mention the innumerable stresses that COVID-19 added to the mix. When my stress level gets too high, it poisons my mental health.

My experience isn’t unique. That’s why the Penn State SPS chapter created Mental Health Week—to offer a lifeboat to members struggling with mental health issues.

We held Mental Health Week the week before spring finals, the most stressful week of the semester. Each day we showcased an on-campus resource or featured a stress-relieving activity. Our event list included a virtual social, a talk on imposter syndrome and dealing with failure, a panel on diversity and mental health as it relates to minorities in STEM, a yoga session, and a painting interlude.

These events helped our members recoup and recharge. The social brought people together during another difficult COVID-19 semester, reminding everyone that we are in this together. The talks were informative and provided tools for supporting each other and encouraging empathy. The yoga session offered an island of calm in a turbulent sea. Painting, the last of our events, helped us destress and decompress so that we had our heads on straight going into finals.

Those who participated in our inaugural Mental Health Week came away feeling refreshed and better able to care for themselves, and we considered that success. As a chapter, we think it’s important to reach out to people who may be feeling isolated and bring everyone together; embracing and supporting our vulnerabilities makes us better physicists and better people.

I encourage you and your chapter to consider organizing a Mental Health Week. I recommend including events that allow the community to come together and relax, educate members on the mental health resources available on campus, provide a safe and calm space away from stressors, and promote inclusion. Most importantly, be sure to have fun.

Mental health is something that we all have to protect. Taking care of ourselves and supporting each other is—and will continue to be—key as we become the next generation of scientists.

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