For the past 10 years, the Muslim Students’ Association has fasted for a selected country in need, but they decided to take on a new challenge this year: mental health.
The MSA hosted its annual fundraiser dinner, the Fast-A-Thon, on Thursday night in the Ohio Union in an effort to challenge stigmas surrounding mental health, especially in multicultural communities. They also wanted to explore the religious traditions of Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Hinduism and their celebration of mental wellness.
Amber Hussain, co-chair for the event and a third-year in neuroscience, said the fasting period before the dinner creates a sense of community, but MSA wanted to make more people feel a part of that community this year.
“Every time we came up with a country that we wanted to do. We thought well that doesn’t affect everyone,” Hussain said. “(Mental health) is something that could really affect everyone.”
The dinner, hosted by Hussain and her co-chair Yusef Saeed, a third-year in neuroscience, opened up with words from Senior Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston. Adams-Gaston said nearly 58 percent of college students struggle with their mental health at some point in their college career.
Adams-Gaston said all students deserve the support and means to get better, especially in minority communities.
“The pain and suffering goes untreated because we believe it is not acceptable,” Adams-Gaston said. “We need to change the culture and get mental health out of the darkness and into the light.”
The night continued with a panel of mental health experts ranging from psychiatrists to neuroscientists, who all gave their advice and perspectives on the topic. They all stressed the importance of getting help when needed. The stigma surrounding mental health was also addressed by each panelist.
“If I asked everyone to stand up, we would look differently at someone with the flu shot and someone who’s gotten counseling (for mental health) in the last year,” said Dr. Mickey Sharma, director of the Counseling and Consultation Service at OSU. “When we look at people differently, that, my friends, is stigma.”
Sharma also said that it is important to open up the dialogue, support one another and avoid silence.
The night concluded with Hussain urging all attendees to make a donation to the Refugee Health and Wellness Branch of Community Refugee and Immigration Services, a local refugee organization. Proceeds from the dinner went to CRIS, in order to benefit newly arrived refugees and immigrants.
“We in no way defeated stigma against mental health tonight, but it was a start,” said Hussain. “All we needed was to have the conversation. It was a risk, but we are happy with how it turned out and the tremendous support we received from the university.”