Colorful balloons and signs were attached to poles around campus as the Behavioral Science Association hosted the first I Will Listen 5K.
Members of BSA and participants met at 9 a.m. April 13 at the Raymond J. Courter Park Pavillion to begin the I Will Listen 5K for Mental Health Awareness.
Assistant Director of Wellness Services B.K. Taylor gave a speech about the importance of the event before the participants began.
“It’s (I Will Listen) more than just a slogan; it’s more than just a hashtag,” Taylor said in his speech. “It’s a commitment that each one of you are making, and I don’t know how much you realize that it can have.”
Taylor told the group a quote that he has remembered since he was younger as he went through a difficult time.
“Either you die a hero or you live long enough to become the villain,” Taylor said. “It stuck with me very heavily.”
He went into a story regarding his childhood and found someone to talk to.
“I went to a deep friend a colleague, teacher, and mentor by the name of Tim Crowley and I told him what I was feeling and what I was experiencing at that time,” Taylor said. “And you know what he did? He listened. He didn’t judge. He didn’t try to say, ‘Man, there are much worse things in this world.’ He listened openly and compassionately. And then he said ‘This doesn’t have to be your life.’”
Taylor said there were two things he wanted the group to take away from his speech.
“The first thing is to those who see themselves as advocates — this is a commitment, and it’s an understanding that you don’t have to have the right answer,” Taylor said. “But instead you just need to give people space and connect. Understand that what they’re sharing with you is important and maybe you don’t have the right answer but there is always someone else to go to.”
The second message Taylor wanted to get across was for those who battle with mental illness.
“I’m going to challenge you. For all of those in the audience who have had a mental health concern, who have talked about it before,” Taylor said. “You’ve heard those phrases. ‘You’ve done well for yourself.’ You have (and) I’m not here to take that away from you. But instead, I inspire you to hear this next phrase which is despite what that person has said, they haven’t seen anything yet.”
BSA Vice President senior Kiersten Johnson said the I Will Listen campaign will encourage people to talk about mental health.
“It (I Will Listen) is a good campaign to keep on campus because mental health is a big issue with a lot of people here, and people don’t feel comfortable talking about,” Johnson said. “We try to make it a little easier. BSA and this is for, just to bring awareness to mental health and talking about and not making it such a taboo topic.”
Junior Asma Hassan said Taylor’s speech confirmed why the participants were doing the event.
“B.K.’s speech was phenomenal, and it solidified what we were doing today,” Hassan said. “We’re listening, and we are here to be present and to acknowledge mental illness.”
Hassan said when she would think about giving up during the event, she remembered why she started
“I’m a psychology and human services major, and I really want to go into helping people with mental illness and hopefully be a counselor someday,” Hassan said. “I just thought about that every time I would quit or something I started thinking, ‘You wouldn’t quit on helping someone else so why are you quitting on yourself right now?’ That set the tone for the entire run.”
During Taylor’s speech he said more people have been willing to discuss mental illness but there is still work that needs to be done.
“Not only is it great that we are beginning to tear down stigmas, and we still have a ways to go with that,” Taylor said. “We also need to willing to provide the services and resources needed so those people can get help.”