While students study during the period between midterm and final exams, Binghamton University’s Mental Health Outreach Peer Educators (M-HOPE) organized a “Stress Reduction Extravaganza” including club tabling, music, yoga and therapy dogs, where the club aimed to promote mental health awareness and offer de-stress activities.
Held on Wednesday afternoon in the University Union, the event featured several organizations tabling with arts and crafts, games and prizes and pamphlets to educate students about mental health and resources. Organizations in attendance included BU’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a coed service fraternity, Active Minds, Medical Roots Project, High Hopes Helpline, Real Education About College Health, the office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs and the Eating Awareness Committee (EAC).
Allie Schiavi, an M-HOPE intern, one of the event coordinators and a junior majoring in psychology, said her group tried to find as many student and University organizations as possible that might be helpful to students and stress reduction.
“There are so many different resources that people don’t know about,” Schiavi said. “People should know that there is a very real threat of stress on our campus, and knowing that there are great resources that could really help, that’s what we wanted to show.”
Vanessa Borden, nutrition and fitness intern for the EAC and a senior majoring in psychology, said eating disorders are a common struggle for high school and college students and are psychological in nature.
“Eating disorders are completely mental — it’s not just the physical aspect at all — so de-stressing is a huge part of recovery, just finding ways to ease your mind,” Borden said. “De-stressing also helps you focus in the moment. A lot of times, with eating disorders, you’re constantly thinking about what you’re putting in your body, how much to exercise, how you look and your body image. De-stressing can help with mindfulness and focusing on the present and what is actually important, so you can keep your mind off of the thoughts leading to eating disorders.”
Amid the upbeat music and chatter of students mingling, there was a corner of the room dedicated to students who chose to visit the therapy dogs over making arts and crafts. With six dogs of varying sizes, students were able to pet certified therapy dogs as their de-stressing activity. Barbara Boncek, 60, of Owego, is a therapy dog owner and said she believes it is her dog’s job to help young students in emotional need.
“About two weeks ago, we went to the Binghamton High School after hearing about the young girl who’d been hit by a car and died,” Boncek said. “The morning they announced it [to the school], we wanted the dogs to be there. I felt that it was their job, to be there for the students to release those emotions and grieve.”
Jasmine Baez, a freshman majoring in psychology, said she initially attended the event after a friend told her about all the activities, but she stayed for the dogs.
“I went to the arts and crafts’ painting table, it was so relaxing and definitely stress-relieving,” Baez said. “I had a test [before the event] and I was really stressed out, so coming and having so many dogs here has really helped out.”
With a turnout of over 160 students, Schiavi said M-HOPE’s intern-coordinated event was successful.
“I’m super happy with the number of people that we had, and I think it’ll help with the setup for next year,” Schiavi said. “I’d love to see even more resources [next year] — see what other organizations we can bring in — because getting help with stress shouldn’t just stop at our campus’ resources.”
The interns planned for the Stress Reduction Extravaganza to take place between midterms and finals, giving students the opportunity to learn about mental health resources outside of stress-related times of the semester. For Ellie Johnson, a sophomore majoring in psychology, the timing was ideal.
“People still have a lot of tests this week — even I had an important biology test recently, and a lot of people have even more going on — so that’s super stressful, even in comparison to finals week,” Johnson said.