Sierra College preaches hope and health
Informational exhibits, documentary screenings, suicide prevention training sessions and creative outlets for personal expression filled the grounds at the college’s Rocklin campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Alive! Mental Health Fair, a national initiative made local.
The fair was a concerted effort between the college and the
Keynote speaker Reese Butler, whose wife’s suicide inspired the creation of the
Butler said on one end, suicide prevention is about getting people to feel they are not alone, and on the other end, it requires training people to not only dispel myths but to ask the right questions and refer friends to the right people. He gave a speech on the history of the suicide hotline and lessons from his own life, emphasizing mental health care in general as a lifelong process of self maintenance.
“(People need) to rethink their own impressions of mental illness and disorders,” he said. “That it isn’t necessarily a death sentence.”
“This campus has 100 counselors who are trained to do crisis intervention and support students. That’s unheard of in most schools. There are a handful in
Dr. Jennica Jenkins,
“Each school that was awarded the grant has to do a regional partnership forum. We did that in October. We have to do a mental health fair for students, we have to do a newsletter, and then we have to offer trainings for every employee and every person on campus,” she said. “We did research to find out how many campuses had health fairs and what the best model was, and the Alive! Mental Health Fair has been offered at thousands of colleges and it’s accessible.”
Representing Auburn Hip Hop Congress with open mic sessions at the quad, business manager Rocky Zapata said one key to accessibility is giving young people a voice instead of just a lesson.
“It’s vital that we pull together as communities to provide the support, the space, the outreach,” he said. “Music and art is therapeutic, and writing is one of the only free outlets that we have, and it’s one of the most effective ones that we have if you just tap into it.”
Waiting for her turn at the mic to share poetry,
“I think that mental illness is very important to bring to the surface, because I think that, in general, we all get distracted by other things going on in life that we ignore the most basic issues that we have,” she said.
Dyatlov’s friend and fellow student, Ciera Wilbur, wouldn’t speak for other students but said she personally saw value in the fair.
“Having events where people can express themselves like this I think is important, especially for such a good cause,” she said. “It is something that people need to be aware of, especially with all the gun violence going on recently. They’re saying it’s a lot about mental illness, and that has something to do with it … It’s important for people to know about it, and this is just a really beautiful, intense way to do that.”
By all accounts, prevention efforts can make a difference.
“It shows that every health system can do it, every college can do it, every community can do it,” he said.