This week, one group of students will focus on an aspect of life often ignored by many Yalies — mental health.

National Mental Illness Awareness Week is being promoted on campus by Mind Matters, an undergraduate student mental health education and awareness group. The group’s scheduled events for the week are part of a concerted effort to raise money for Fellowship Place, a peer outreach center for those with mental illness, co-coordinator Rachel Denison ’06 said.

Mind Matters co-coordinator Heidi Hansberry ’06 said the group’s primary goal is to offer understanding and sympathy for those with mental illness.

“There’s an incredible amount of stigma against people with mental illnesses, and it’s tragic,” she said. “Like any other ailment, we shouldn’t attribute fault to the individual. It’s not something the individual is personally responsible for.”

Fellowship Place, which is located at 441 Elm St., offers meals, counseling, assistance in job hunting and a variety of adult education programs to those in need. Reproductions of artwork from Fellowship Place community members are available for viewing on Cross Campus, and the exhibit sits at the crux of the program, serving as a unique way for certain people with mental illness to express themselves, Hansberry said.

“There are some amazing artists there, and their entire community center is wall-to-wall with art,” she said. “That’s the show-stopper, for me. Art is a great way to communicate thoughts and feelings that can’t be spoken.”

The exhibits also include sticky notes and boards where passersby can leave messages or artwork of their own between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Lekshmi Santhosh ’07, the program’s coordinator of education, said Fellowship Place residents will visit Cross Campus either today or tomorrow to add more art to the collection.

Mind Matters is working to raise awareness of mental health issues largely because mental illness in the college population often goes undiagnosed, Denison said. She said it is estimated that more than one out of four people between the ages of 18 and 24 have a mental illness.

Hansberry said the passion of students involved in the awareness campaign has renewed her confidence in the program.

“This is one of the most amazing groups I’ve worked for because there are so many people who are passionate about it,” she said. “It’s struck a chord. I’ve never seen so many people come together with so much intensity for an event.”

The week’s events began last night with a Spizzwinks(?) a cappella benefit concert attended by about 30 students in the Saybrook College Athenaeum Room.

“[The concert was for] a great cause and a great opportunity to give back to the Yale community,” Matt McCauley ’06, the Spizzwinks(?)’s advertising director, said.

Other events scheduled for National Mental Illness Awareness Week include a viewing of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in the Branford College TV room at 8 p.m. Wednesday and a panel discussion on eating disorders at 4 p.m. Friday in the Branford College common room. The panel will include Yale University Health Services employees, an expert from a clinic that treats patients with eating disorders and a student who lives with an eating disorder, Santhosh said.

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