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Yard Talk 101 and Cigna Open Up Conversation on Mental Health at Howard University

Howard University partnered with health insurance company Cigna, and HBCU broadcast media company Yard Talk 101, to host a panel discussion on mental health and provide health screenings for students.

Photo of Seminar Presentation Screen. Photo Courtesy: Natalie Miller.

Howard University partnered with health insurance company Cigna, and HBCU broadcast media company Yard Talk 101, to host a panel discussion on mental health and provide health screenings for students.

The initiative, “Fit For You,” has a mission of raising awareness on and providing resources for mental health. The event was moderated by Yard Talk 101 founder Jahliel Thurman on Nov. 1, inside of the Cramton Auditorium. 

Panelists included actor and Howard alumni Lance Gross, therapist Keir Gaines, mental health counselor Dr. Lorrie Miller and director of campus health for the Howard University Student Association (HUSA) Elizabeth Bolarinwa.

During the seminar, students learned tips on how to maintain their mental health, and heard testimonials on the difficulties of preserving it from the panelists. 

“We need to think of mental health differently,” Miller said. “[Mental health] is on the same platform if not just as important as physical health,” she added.

Panelists also addressed how the general public views mental health as a stigma, rather than an essential life experience. According to Gaines, the reason is because people dislike talking about their struggles.

“We don’t talk about our faults too much. We need to talk about our struggles more,” he said.

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Panelists amplified the importance of practicing forms of self-care and taking necessary breaks. 

“It’s ok to say ‘I need a break,’” Gaines stressed. 

The panelists also acknowledged the difficulty of taking a break with a busy schedule, such as Lance Gross, whose acting career seldom provides him time to unwind.

“I’m away from my family a lot,” Gross said. “So I have a therapist. I journal. I just started meditating three years ago.”

Bolarinwa discussed mental health challenges from a student perspective, and explained that balancing academics and mental health amidst the ongoing pandemic can present its own challenges. She noted that she likes to rejuvenate when times get too stressful.

“I’m still learning,” she said. “Being online feels like being in two places at once. I spend time with friends and learned to say ‘no’ more.”

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To rejuvenate during the school semester, Gaines suggested studying for 30 minutes or so, taking a five minute break, and getting back to the books.

In some cases, trying to preserve mental health is not a personal challenge, but a challenge for one’s friends or loved ones. Miller described how critical it is to set a boundary and connect the person to someone who can help them professionally.

“Your role is the friend, not the therapist,” Dr. Miller stated. “Your job is to get them help.”

As HUSA’s director of campus health, Bolarinwa offered that, if someone is struggling with mental health at Howard, it is important to know and utilize the help that is available on campus, including HUSA.

“The Student Health Center does counseling for groups or individuals. HUSA is a bridge for students and can help if you don’t want to talk to your professors,” Bolarinwa said.

For more information about Howard University mental health resources, visit: https://howard.edu/pandemic-response/resources/mental-health

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Copy edited by: N’dia Webb

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