Illustration by Zelalem Waritu.

Mental Health Awareness Month Wraps Up

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, we spoke to organizers, panelists and participants to learn about the impacts of the month-long programming series.

Over the course of March, the Health Promotion Office at NYU Abu Dhabi, in collaboration with Wellness, Athletics, the Health Center and even alum, celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month. From mental health literacy trivia contests to student-led panels on mental health in marginalized communities, the events attempted to engage the community in meaningful conversations about mental health.
The Gazelle spoke to MHAM organizers and participants to learn about the programming and how it fits into the larger conversations on campus.
“One of the many major priorities for the Health Promotion Office is to strategically destigmatize mental health on campus,” explained Tina Wadhwa, Director of Student Success and Well-Being at NYU Abu Dhabi. “Our virtual MHAM programming ... seeks to highlight the impact of mental health in all aspects of one's life, creates opportunities for dialogue, and highlights both the resources and the strength it takes to ask for support. It also aims to equip students with self-care strategies to avoid burnout and build on their emotional resilience.”
According to Wadhwa, MHAM, which is now in its fifth year iteration, has had a substantial impact on community-wide awareness and engagement with mental health over the years. She further noted that the HPO has been collaborating on mental health programming with Campus Life departments ranging from the Office of Residential Education to the Athletics Department as well as with the student-led peer counseling group REACH. She added that, this year, the HPO leveraged relationships with alumni and external organizations such as The Lighthouse Arabia Center for Wellbeing and Maudsley Health to increase its reach within the larger NYUAD community.
“Despite all of our programming being virtual, we bolstered meaningful student engagement with mental health through initiatives such as trivia contests, care packages to support a friend and informal virtual discussions around redesigning success, all of which have seen participation in numbers,” Wadhwa shared.
The final event of the month was a virtual panel on inclusivity in mental health where students learned about mental health experiences specific to those belonging to marginalized communities.
“[A] key goal of virtual MHAM this year was to address the global discussions around inclusion, diversity, belonging and equity and how these can be continually explored within the realms of mental health,” Wadhwa shared on the genesis of the event.
Among the panelists was Cece Kim, Class of 2021, former REACH member and HPO intern. Kim shared that Wadhwa approached her in early March to invite her to participate in the panel and share her experience with mental health awareness.
“I was happy to join and share my story of coming from a place where mental health is discussed rarely, if at all, which I do think a lot of students can relate to; what I was really grateful for, though, was hearing the other panelists discuss topics that are addressed less frequently,” shared Kim, who is from South Korea and Taiwan.
The panel discussion brought to light how the systems set up to address mental health continue to fail marginalized communities. Panelists highlighted, for example, the disparity in medical treatment for Black women in most countries.
“Some of these systematic issues that are the root causes of poor mental health lie beyond our control, which is the most challenging aspect when it comes to having discussions on ways to cope with them,” explained Kim.
Lucas Davidenco, from Argentina and a member of the Class of 2021, was one of the panelists for the panel on mental health and inclusivity. Davidenco, also a former REACH member, wished that the panel discussion had gone on longer as he was happy that topics such as race and class were discussed within the context of mental health.
“A lot of the discourse on mental health focuses on the individual and the individual issues that may arise when one is a victim of marginalization in many ways, but oftentimes we forget to think about the macro aspect of it,” Davidenco pointed out. “People are systematically and economically disenfranchised all around the world and the vast majority of people cannot afford to go to therapy.”
Kim highlighted the value of speaking out about mental health even beyond MHAM.
“I hope people take the time to practice compassion, both for themselves and others, because to carry such burdens alone are isolating and burdensome,” she expressed, pointing out that although a network of support may not be a complete solution to one’s struggles, it can provide comfort and relief from loneliness.
Wadhwa echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the values that led to the observation of MHAM on campus: “Creating a culture at NYUAD where people can bring their whole, authentic self forward—including their struggles with their mental health—fosters deeper connections, encourages people to seek out mental health support, emboldens the sense of community, and supports excellence in all facets of collegiate life.”
Laura Assanmal contributed reporting.
Mari Velasquez-Soler is Senior News Editor and Naeema Mohammed Sageer is Deputy News Editor. Email them at
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