We have all experienced feelings of sadness and anxiety during our time at Tufts. For some, however, these emotions are much more pervasive. On Monday, junior Bri Pastro, the co-president of Active Minds at Tufts, helped organize the annual Mental Health Monologues, an event that aims to raise awareness about mental illness through the sharing of experiences and stories.
Julian Blatt (JB): What is Active Minds?
Bri Pastro (BP): Active Minds is a group on campus. We work with both the community and the administration to find ways to address the stigma around mental health and help people who struggle with mental illness receive the best possible treatment.
JB: Why should people share their stories?
BP: It’s very cathartic to expose yourself in front of a crowd, and the Tufts community is endlessly supportive. That was my experience when I read my monologue my sophomore year. People I didn’t even know came up to me after the event to tell me that they could relate to what I spoke about. It was comforting to learn that I wasn’t alone.
JB: What was your monologue about?
BP: I had a concussion my freshman year and returned to school with concussion syndrome as well as accompanying mental health issues. I talked about struggling to find my own mental health story. I was dating someone who struggled with mental health. My mom was struggling with mental health. I wasn’t sure how my battle with illness tied into my personal identity, and I hoped that by sharing my story I would discover the answer. It was one of the most emotionally vulnerable things I’ve ever done — I was shaking the entire time. But it was a very healing experience.
JB: How does the use of art when addressing mental health help spread awareness?
BP: I think it makes the topic more digestible. Mental health can feel abstract for people because it’s intangible. But I think a lot of people find art to be a really expressive medium that facilitates empathetic discussion of these issues. Art is evocative in a way that makes it better at capturing the intricacies of mental health than anything else.
JB: What do you hope this event will accomplish?
BP: The immediate goal is for people to feel safe and welcome to talk about the experiences they shared or the ones they heard other people share. Ideally, people will approach the readers and say, “I’ve struggled with this too, you’re not alone,” or, “This is something that has been a really big part of my life.” And hopefully when audience members return home they will continue the dialogue. The most important thing with mental health is that we have to talk about it; otherwise, it becomes a shameful, dirty secret, which I think is incredibly detrimental. The big picture for Active Minds is leading Tufts to become an even more accepting community, and addressing these issues through monologues is a great way to start.