By Lana Leonard
Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure are words held by Dr. Brenè Brown when speaking about vulnerability. The mental health supervising peer educators held Stigmonologues virtually for the first time over Zoom on Thursday, Oct. 29. Sharing their vulnerability over the course of an hour, six students from the College discussed their experiences with mental health. Each student found a sense of community in the audience of over 100 people that attended.
“Stigmonologues continues to blow me away each year,” said English and secondary education dual major Abby Bucci, the mental health peer educator host of the event.
Lo-fi hip hop bounced around the speakers of the PowerPoint that said to hold on tight, as the event would start soon. Familiarity and smiles amid the Zoom members rendered a feeling of safety.
“I think the event went super well and the support from the TCNJ community was so heartwarming to see,” said mental health peer educator and junior psychology major Nandini Mehta.
The first speaker, who asked to be referred to as Cam, a junior public health and communication studies double major, felt the pressure to conform to his parents’ dreams. “I often feel like I don’t have a say,” Cam said. However, he spoke of learning about himself and the length of time that learning takes. “I’m being patient with myself and being kind to myself,” he said.
Some of the speakers began choking up. “I believed I didn’t matter for so long,” said speaker and sophomore and public health major Santiago Salinas.
“Everyone who is reading this matters. Your life matters, your choices matter, and your character matters,” he said in an email to The Signal.
Most of the event’s speakers had all understood what it felt like to be isolated and uncared for by friends.
By senior year of high school, one speaker was cloaked in strength.
“I never open up,” she said right before finding the power to speak to her mother about the harm she was living through.
Many of those who spoke were transfer students, some from large schools with less access to mental health care.
“Reading the comments people left me in the document were so touching and kind,” said speaker and sophomore special education and iSTEM dual major, Kaitlyn Healey, in an interview with The Signal.
Robbin Loonan, a coordinator of the Mental Health Services Peer Education Program, says she is here for anyone who needs it.
“I can’t say enough about the amazing work and dedication of the MHS peer educators,” Loonan said. “At this difficult time, as we continue to drudge through the Covid-19 pandemic and all its challenges coupled with the stress of the … election, it is more important than ever that we come together as a community to support, listen to, and embrace one another.”