By Annie Howard
Five Samford University students are facing down the culture of silence surrounding mental health.
As part of a spring semester program, the students, who are in Samford’s public relations department, were assigned the Campaign to Change Direction as a client.
To promote the campaign’s message of mental health awareness, they created a campaign of their own, called Face the Five.
The Campaign to Change Direction put together five signs that may indicate someone is in a tough place: change in personality, agitation, withdrawal, decline in personal care and hopelessness. The aim of Face the Five is to familiarize people with those signs.
“It’s an awareness campaign,” said Liann Cates, a Samford senior and member of Face the Five. “If someone is exhibiting these five signs, it might indicate emotional suffering.”
Throughout Face the Five’s 30-day stretch, which started Feb. 15, the students will visit areas around Samford and Birmingham.
From campus to churches and senior citizen homes, they’ll drop in and, in five to 10 minutes, break down the five signs of emotional suffering. They hope to also break down the barriers to discussing emotional pain. During that time, they stress the importance of mental health resources and direct people to services such as Samford Counseling.
At each site, they’re asking people to pledge with a high five.
“We’re going to have people just put their hand up as if they’re high-fiving someone saying ‘I’m pledging to know the five signs,’” Cates said.
They want people then to snap a picture and post the high-five on social media as a visual reminder that those suffering aren’t alone.
The group also is gathering testimonies, both in-person and by email.
“We’re hoping, at Samford and in general, to have people that want to come forward and say, ‘This is how I’ve struggled,’” said Cates.
She wants to humanize their message, using real stories to show people that mental health is a real issue.
Face the Five is reaching beyond campus in a big way. Mayor William Bell recently recognized the campaign, declaring March 5 as Birmingham’s Mental Health Awareness Day.
The group picked up its proclamation Feb. 29.
Face the Five is welcoming testimony submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also invite anyone to share their own high-five pledge on social media and tag it #changementalhealth.