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New Mental Health Club Explores Depression, Other Issues, with Screening of New Program

Nonprofit seeks to give hope and help to those who struggle

There was truly a meeting of minds last semester when Sacred Heart University’s mental health club, To Write Love on Her Arms, previewed two 30-minute episodes of Stories of the Mind, a new series on the recently launched Mental Health Channel. A brief PowerPoint presentation that followed highlighted related statistics on depression.

To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) was founded as a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicidal thoughts, according to Viki Caputo, founder and president of SHU’s chapter. Caputo, a senior English/writing and education major, said the group also aims to inform, inspire and encourage a path to treatment and recovery.

The SHU chapter of TWLOHA was approved last April, and the screening was its first major event.

The first episode presented the stories of three college students and their struggles with such obstacles as abandonment, stress, physical abuse and lack of parental guidance. In each case, the subjects overcame their challenges and even attained mentor and leadership status as they helped others with similar issues. The second episode placed four healthy individuals in a controlled environment and challenged them to stay awake for 36 hours. The goal was to illustrate how lack of sleep affects vigilance, memory, cognitive ability and stress levels. The episodes were, in part, narrated by Mental Health Channel Founder Harry Lynch.

Caputo said the subject matter spoke to her personally and had relevance to her fellow students as well. “I struggle daily with the mental health issues that these episodes cover,” she commented, noting it is a key reason she founded the club. “There was no group on campus to help people with these things, and I felt there had to be a change.”

The responses and feedback to the club have been very positive, Caputo said. “It’s been way more popular than I expected, with 30 to 35 members now,” she said. “A lot of them struggled with the same things and, while we agree that the subjects are uncomfortable, they need to be talked about.”

The club meets bi-weekly to discuss issues in an open-floor manner and to plan awareness activities.

Caputo’s post-screening PowerPoint presentation supported a call for a group such as TWLOHA on college campuses. Among the research findings she highlighted, 71.3 percent of college students nationwide have anxiety or stress over college expenses, and 58.5 percent feel anxious about not spending time with friends and loved ones. Slightly more than 50 percent also worry about their intellectual ability to complete coursework. More alarming is that 86 percent of students have felt overwhelmed, 81 percent have felt exhausted, 30 percent have felt too depressed to function and 6.6 percent have considered suicide.