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The Antelope

Mental health speaker encourages students to find their voice

Photo by Kosuke Yoshii / Antelope Staff

On Jan. 31 Lopes for Hope and McKenna’s Rae of Hope Foundation sponsored an event on attempting to empower students by having them take ownership of their mental health through a journey of self-acceptance. Wes Woodson, a professional mental health public speaker, hosted a lecture titled “I Have Anxiety (So What?)”

Taylor Paul, vice president of the executive team for Lopes for Hope, spoke on the purpose of the organization and the importance of hosting events of this nature on campus. 

“We are an organization that is trying to reduce the stigma around mental health and spread mental health awareness,” Paul said. “We put on events and bring in speakers like Wes Woodson and help people know that they are enough and that this is a safe space for them.I really hope that students know that they are not alone and that they deserve to be here and that they are loved. Whenever we have events, you all are welcome to come and we would love to have you.”

Lopes for Hope empowers students to advocate for their mental health by fostering education, awareness and connectivity.

Wes Woodson, the speaker of the event, commented on his passion of destigmatizing through the art of storytelling. 

“I hope that students will take away that they are not alone in what they go through,” Woodson said. “They don’t have to feel ashamed of talking about anxiety or any other mental health challenge. More importantly, to believe three words: you are enough.” 

Woodson spoke on his journey of professional mental health speaking and his motivations to follow this career path. 

“I’ve been speaking professionally for the last two and a half years and I am so passionate about it because I feel that when I was younger I felt like I didn’t have a voice,” Woodson said. “I want to inspire students to get their voice, have their voice and feel heard.”

Woodson is motivated to empower students and leaders to believe in self love and sufficiency. To achieve this mission, Wes Woodson founded “the hidden company”: a storytelling company creating content, merchandise and experiences in order to creatively break the mental health stigma.

Woodson, who is a survivor of domestic violence and a suicide attempt, spoke on the importance of openness and acceptance when it comes to dealing with various forms of mental illness. 

“Rae of Hope is so wonderful and they are really trying to inspire students to feel less alone in what they’re going through and understand the importance of seeking help,” Woodson said. “There are people out there who want to help you, there are people on this planet who need you. You are loved and cherished.” 

Woodson’s conversation explored his personal life and his journey living with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. In his lecture, Woodson discussed his experiences and past growing up as a person of color in a predominantly white community and his many attempts at hiding his mental health issues in order to escape shame and public embarrassment. He spoke on the importance of accepting anxiety instead of suppressing it, even if it comes with years of self-reflection and self-acceptance through therapy and support from friends and family.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues affecting college students. Many students experience high levels of stress due to academic pressures, financial concerns, social challenges and the transition to independence. Discussing anxiety openly helps to reduce stigma and normalize seeking help.

UNK Counseling can be found in room 144 of the Memorial Student Affairs Building. Appointments can be made at 308-865-8248. For advocacy and prevention training year-round, the Loper Mental Health Outreach Office is located in room 158 of MSAB.

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