On November 1, Alaska Pacific University (APU) senior Rachel Fritz walked to the stage to welcome the attendees of Mental Health Awareness Day. Fritz aimed to change how Alaskans talk about mental health.
“The organization of today’s event means a lot to me, honestly. It means that this campus [APU] is putting mental health first. It’s beginning to break that stigma and keep the conversation going.”
During the morning session, keynote speaker Dr. Tina Woods – Director of Community Health at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and an APU Board Member – shared her life’s story including her challenges with positive mental health. Her presentation struck a chord with many and sparked a discussion about different types of mental health treatment. For Dr. Woods, APU’s commitment to changing the narrative about mental health will open the door for further conversations.
“I’m really pleased APU is hosting mental health awareness, especially to help destigmatize this health issue that many of us suffer [from]. Many of us have experienced a form of depression or anxiety, and we always hope it doesn’t exacerbate into something like suicide. I’m really pleased to see APU promote mental health awareness on this campus and to encourage people to seek help. To help them understand that they are normal, that they are no different than any other human being that has a chronic physical illness. Mental health should be looked at a holistic manner, and people should feel comfortable with saying I don’t feel well mentally.”
By the end of the event, one thing became abundantly clear; the only way to change the current narrative regarding mental health is to keep talking. The conversation is key.
“Dr. Tina Woods talked a lot about how the conversation needs to be there, and the conversation needs to continue in order for people to feel comfortable to get the help that they need. Mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it needs to be treated as such. It’s amazing that the campus [APU] is allowing me to put this on and willing to put mental health first.”