A&M-Corpus Christi’s Interactive “Inspire an Islander” Exhibit Fights Mental Illness Stigma

Published: November 17, 2017

A&M-Corpus Christi’s Interactive “Inspire an Islander” Exhibit Fights Mental Illness Stigma

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – With suicide the second leading cause of death in college students, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is using art as a way to engage the campus community and increase mental health awareness. Islanders will have the opportunity to explore mental health topics through “Inspire an Islander,” an interactive art exhibit that is on display in the Mary and Jeff Bell Library now through Wednesday, Nov. 22.

“We’re building a community on campus that cares about mental health,” said Eduek “Ini” Inyang, a student in the master’s of business administration program and The Suicide Awareness Focuses on Everyone (S.A.F.E.) program graduate assistant. “We want to show anyone who’s going through mental health issues that if they talk to about it, there won’t be any stigma.”

While some art pieces were submitted before the exhibit’s opening, much of the display encourages Islanders to interact with it and get creative. Replicating the success of the “Links Across Campus” project, S.A.F.E encourages Islanders to write or draw supportive messages on paper links or paper canvases to become part of the art exhibit. Students can also use finger-paint to put their handprint on a “commitment board,” which demonstrates their commitment to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health. Inyang said, “the commitment board signifies to others that they can take my hand, and I can get you the help you need.”

“We want to reduce stigma, and one way to do that is to have people involved,” said Dr. Pamela Greene, Assistant Professor of Nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS) and Primary Investigator on the S.A.F.E grant. “Ini came up with the idea to engage students creatively through all forms of art; from doodles to poems. It has been a wonderful collaborative effort with him taking the idea and developing it with the help and amazing support of the library staff.”

To help Islanders deal with semester stress, S.A.F.E provides items and services at their exhibit’s booth. People can grab a coloring page or take one of the many helpful cards, which informs readers of the various services available in-person, online, on-campus and off-campus. 

The S.A.F.E. program was made possible thanks to a $260,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Through the grant, the S.A.F.E. program is focused on caring and making sure everyone knows how to recognize and reach out to an individual who may be in distress. In the future, Greene and the S.A.F.E. team look forward to putting on the exhibit and engaging Islanders each semester.

S.A.F.E. works with the University’s Counseling Center, and much of their resources, like At-Risk training, can be found here.