by Brianna Lindahl
Assistant Spotlight Editor
From November 6-10 the CAPSS and DOSS offices at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul hosted disability awareness week. During Northwestern’s Tuesday chapel, four panelists addressed the student body. Zachary Field, biblical and theological studies, philosophy and biology major, Hannah Becker, intercultural studies major, Alison Van Den Bussche, junior elementary education major, and Brooklyn Plagge, junior social studies education major, shared about their experience with mental health.
“The goal of it is to bring about that awareness and understanding, hopefully open up some honest and real conversations,” said Ruth Fries, CAPSS services specialist at Northwestern. “God created us all uniquely, and we all experience the world a little bit differently, and how does that look to walk alongside and support each other.”
Van Den Bussche hopes that as a result of this chapel the student body will be aware of mental health and understand that it is not just a spiritual problem. “It’s hard to understand if you haven’t been there yourself,” she said. “Prayer is very helpful, but it’s not the only kind of help.”
“As a student body, there needs to be a sense of an awareness that disabilities are not just what you see physically,” said Field. “And that is a big part of a lot of people’s lives, and it affects them in various ways.”
Field encourages his fellow students to be attentively aware of others’ struggles on campus. Field said, “We live in a community where we can be intentional, where we can be understandable and see each other’s hurts, and we can see each other’s struggles, yet we can lift one another up.”
“Attentive awareness, to me, means that I am intentionally looking and intentionally myself,” said Field. “I’m thinking about how are my actions are going to affect those around me.”
For people battling mental illness, vulnerability is a big step towards healing. “Just opening yourself up to being vulnerable is so important because you can’t do it alone,” said Van Den Bussche. During a hard time Van Den Bussche reached out to a friend who came and sat with her in response to her needs. Her frield offered a comforting response to Van Den Bussche’s hardship saying, “I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I’m willing to sit with you and help you in whatever way I can.”
“Having a mental illness is one of the most isolating things because it’s really good at making you feel like you’re the only person who has to deal with that,” said Becker. “When other people are vulnerable and willing to talk about things like that it takes away that stigma and loneliness that comes with it.”
All the panelists affirmed that being vulnerable about their mental illness was received better than they expected. “It was always just ‘I care about you; I love you; I want you to be better,’” Said Plagge.
Vulnerability is important for the body of Christ because it gives people the opportunity to support someone battling mental illness. “We’re here to be here for one another,” said Fields.
“They may not understand, but they want to understand,” said Becker.