By Rosie Kean
This university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion introduced the campus-wide mental health magazine You Are Not Alone Nov. 1 in Juan Ramon Jiménez Room in Stamp.
Junior computer science major Muftiat Ogunsanya created the magazine last semester as her capstone project for the Design, Cultures & Creativity Honors program.
“As I started to get submissions and actually put together the magazine, I thought that this would be a very useful resource on campus,” Ogunsanya said.
The magazine is a compilation of 30 poems, artwork, short stories and essays all about mental health. Some of the titles include “An Open Letter To Someone Who Has Lost a Friend,” “Digital Anxiety” and “It’s Always Okay to Cry.” Some of them are anonymous; others have their authors’ names.
Ogunsanya used social media and several college department listservs to request submissions from students.
Ogunsanya brought her project to ODI, which funded the magazine to be a campus-wide publication. The magazine’s launch was part of Rise Above Week.
Joseph Williams, project assistant for ODI, said it was included in Rise Above week to raise awareness about mental illness while combating the stigma surrounding it.
“There’s a piece in the magazine that talks about people suffering in silence and feeling like they’re alone when dealing with issues of mental illness and mental health,” he said. “Making this a part of Rise Above week is way to draw attention to that.”
Ogunsanya said she was inspired to create the magazine after reading a Huffington Post article that was an open letter to anyone with a mental illness. The last line in the article contained the words “you are not alone,” the magazine’s title.
Freshman engineering major Lucie Ugarte said a magazine is an effective way to convey mental health experiences.
“It’s cathartic to write about, and when someone reads it, they can find things they can identify with,” Ugarte said.
Ogunsanya’s goal for the magazine was to create a space for students to freely express their experiences with mental illness. She also wanted to make something students could read and relate to.
“For someone reading it, it can help them just realizing that other people feel the same way,” Ogunsanya said.
Mental health has always been one of Ogunsanya’s passions, but it has become increasingly important to her since she created the magazine.
Working on the magazine helped her get through a stressful sophomore year. Ogunsanya said that she prioritized her grades over everything else.
“My health, my happiness, all seemed secondary to my success,” she said. “Doing this project helped me understand the importance of mental health, and I hope someone else can have a similar experience as they read through all these people’s wonderful words.”
Stephanie Cork, a graduate student studying kinesiology and Ogunsanya’s capstone mentor, said the magazine is a beautiful artistic outlet.
“It creates a space for students to share their voices,” Cork said. “People can comment on their experiences and that’s the most important thing.”
Ogunsanya said there are enough resources on campus to deal with issues of mental health, but she believes You Are Not Alone can help spark more conversation about mental illnesses.
“It’s so easy for students to ignore the signs that they need help or maybe they have a friend that needs help,” she said.
Ogunsanya said she wants to start collecting more submissions soon for a Spring 2017 edition of the magazine. She also wants create a student organization so that the initiative can continue after she graduates.
Extra copies of the magazine will be offered at the counseling center and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion in Marie Mount Hall. An online version of the magazine can be found here.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sean Winters’ Flickr account.