Lessons Learned From Mental Health Advocacy & Portland Pride

In 2006, I started a mental health organization at Humboldt State. This group was called NAKED for Mental Health. I can’t tell you what the acronym means—I wanted a title with some shock value. All my friends joined and we put on some activities in the halls.

The stigma around mental health is awful. It prevents people from seeking help. I knew it would not be an easy time doing educational work.

I hatched a plan, I lived in what was referred to as the Art Colony. At that time it was Madrone hall in the Canyon. (Dormitories at Humboldt have themes.) Late one night, I grabbed a friend and we tiptoed into the poster making room that was available to Residence Life staff. I told her to design some nice backgrounds. My job would be to add all the mental health facts to them.

The goal: Have the prettiest looking posters in the hallways! Something that could catch someone’s eye.

And it worked!!!

Dancing with the NAKED People

My next idea was to do a dance. I created a playlist out of mp3 collection. Once again, I had my friends from the art colony create some designs that I could use. I stuck these up on the walls all over the room with different facts and information. But, the real fun was the dance floor.

This again had a purpose. Create an environment where individuals could learn about mental health without needing to disclose their own experiences. I wasn’t really expecting conversations. This was a safe space. The dancing was a distraction so no one felt that a person was going to approach them.

This is one of the things that art does effectively, inciting self-reflection. I think art is confrontational in nature. It asks us to imagine another point of view. A new way of seeing and experiencing life through the artist’s eyes. Art propels action and advocacy.

I think that my work with mental health advocacy was inspired by Keith Haring’s work during the AIDS crisis. He is my favorite artist. His Pop Shop “was a place where his work would remain accessible to any person (even a kid in the Bronx!)”

This is why I create bookmarks

I had an idea in my head one day. I wanted to craft a cross-stitch item that would represent my love of mathematics and also my queerness. There are plenty out there for regular math gifts but very few of them also represent queer identities.

Now, TBH, I am not the biggest fan of the Euler Identity. I know it by reputation as one of the most beautiful equations.

Now you might ask why a bookmark, well it is simple. It is an item that you can carry with you anywhere you go! Including when you travel because you are likely to also have a book. If someone sees this bookmark, much like our art examples above, this may cause some self-reflection on their part.

Two things might happen:

a) They will already know and recognize you as a math enthusiast

b) They will inquire about what it means.

It is a way to confront a person by creating a safe space for sparking a conversation. So yeah, it’s just very portable.

Portland Pride Parade

I’m so excited, the Portland Pride is this Sunday June 17th at 11 am. I’m not marching in the parade this year but I do plan to make an appearance.

Most of thirties have seen me growing personally by leaps and bounds. I’m much more comfortable with my identity. Much more open with family and strangers about it. As I learn more about myself, I feel that I need to branch out my Pride bookmarks.

I’m adding asexuality, non-binary, and genderqueer pride bookmarks to my selections. Of course, I’ll also keep my LGBTQIA+ one as well. If I can sell those off, I will consider adding other identities to the line.

What identity would you like to see represented next?

And I thought to myself. “Queer people are beautiful and they deserve to be represented by something that is also beautiful!”