The idea came to Christine Ibeagi this past spring, a time many people were spending in isolation.
“It was the feeling of being shut in and not knowing what the next steps were … I felt some mental fogginess and I knew other people felt that way too,” says Ibeagi, a junior health promotion and wellness major. “I wanted to create something positive; a safe place for students to talk about depression, anxiety and stress.”
At the same time, another student on campus had similar thoughts.
“I’ve struggled with my own mental health throughout the years,” says Haylee Plyburn, a junior psychology major. “I’ve met a lot of students who have had a hard time coping and thought it was important to recognize that and build a community on that basis.”
Both students reached out to Dr. Debbie Fort, director of Missouri Southern’s Project Stay program, to share their ideas for a club that could help raise awareness about emotional well-being.
After Fort put them in contact with one another, the students launched a new club – Real About Well-being (RAW) – designed to serve as a healthy outlet for students struggling with mental health.
“I was surprised to learn (another student had a similar idea),” says Plyburn. “I was nervous about it until I met Christine and we got along so great. We had similar ideas for events and activities. It’s almost like it was meant to be.”
RAW is designed to create a positive conversation about mental health issues and dispense with any stigma surrounding the topic.
“This is something that is really needed on campus,” Ibeagi says. “It’s imperative to have something that recognizes and talks about mental health. It’s a vulnerable topic. During our first meeting, we played a game that addressed some of the misconceptions about mental health. Depression isn’t the same with everybody.
“We’ve had people contact us through Instagram, because some people are scared to talk about it. We want to get people comfortable with it. We want to grow the club in numbers, get consistent funding and incorporate events on and off campus.”
Fort says that Ibeagi and Pyburn are clearly passionate about the club and have shown a lot of initiative in getting it off the ground.
“For them to be so proactive and move so quickly on this, I haven’t seen that before,” she says. “They put the gears in motion and it’s been really amazing.”
RAW meets biweekly on Thursday evenings in Billingsly Student Center. Follow the club on Instagram at @RAWellbeing_.