Once I had heard about National Alliance on Mental Illness’ I Will Listen campaign, I knew that I wanted to start it at my school. I brainstormed how I could start the campaign, but I knew I needed the right outlet to get help on setting up and getting the word out. I was recently inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, which is St. Lawrence’s Rhetoric Communication Honors Society. The group was relatively small because it was only started a year ago. Our faculty advisor informed us that our group didn’t have any focus, and it was at our disposal to decide what we wanted to do. It was the perfect platform for me to implement an I Will Listen (IWL) day at my school. I told my group about the campaign and showed them the IWL College Campus Strategy packet to come up with ideas of how we wanted to implement the event.
Ideally, I wanted to start the campaign early in the school year so we could have our IWL day during Mental Illness Awareness week in October. But since our organization was so new, we were busy trying to figure out meeting times and how to bring awareness to our organization. We decided that an IWL day would be a perfect project for the spring semester. My hope was that starting the campaign in the spring would give the organization the opportunity to continue the tradition in the fall.
When we came back from winter break, we talked about tentative ideas on how we would create an IWL event at our school. We brainstormed ideas on what medium we wanted to use to post about IWL. We had a couple ideas, but I decided to reach out to Tyler Harris to see what he felt would be best for our school and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Tyler suggested doing an Instagram day because we could utilize videos and pictures.
As a group we decided on a date for our IWL day. In order to let people know about the event, we created a Facebook event that was shared on all our Facebooks. It explained what NAMI and IWL stands for, and how people could take the pledge to listen. We also posted on our Instagrams, Twitters, and Facebooks every day of the week leading up to our IWL day to get people talking about it on campus. We also put a post on SLUWire, which is a daily email sent to all St. Lawrence students about events going on during the week.
We encouraged people to get involved on Instagram at any point in the day, but if they wanted help they could come by our Student Center and we could take a video or picture for them to post on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook. Tyler was kind enough to send us t-shirts, pins, and stickers to encourage people to come by and post. We advertised that the first posters that captioned with #IWillListen would be able to choose from one of our items. When people came by the Student Center, we allowed them to write their own personal story, or one of the statistics from the packet, on the board and take a picture alone, or with a group of people. We asked each of them to caption the picture “I am (their name) and I will listen. #IWillListen.”
I was a little nervous about how the event would go because it was our first IWL day and it was run by a small group of people. However, I was really impressed with how many people came out for the cause. At first, it was familiar faces that were coming by to post pictures. But after the first hour, people I had never seen before on campus were coming by to post a picture because they had heard about it on social media. It was really cool to see how far social media reached across our campus in such a short amount of time. It was really fun experience and I hope I can come back next year to help with our new I Will Listen day!