I Will Listen: University of Florida
At the end of September, I started planning how I would implement the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ I Will Listen Campaign at my school, the University of Florida. To begin, I got into contact with the UF Counseling and Wellness Center’s AWARE Ambassadors. With their mission being “to provide wellness and mental health awareness outreach initiatives to the UF community,” I felt they were the perfect group to help champion the cause. I first pitched the campaign idea to the organization’s external programming director, Patrick Joseph, and ultimately to the group as a whole, and they loved the campaign and were eager to participate.
Once I gained their support, I worked closely with Patrick to organize how we would activate the campaign on campus. I used the I Will Listen College Campus Strategy that my fellow JWT Intern Rachel Wexler and myself worked on this summer as the basis for what we would do. From the ideas within the strategy, we decided the most feasible things for us to do at UF would be to do video days recording students pledging to listen and the Day Without Headphones, a day where we get students to agree not to wear headphones around campus in an effort to keep themselves open to the world and people around them.
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On October 28th-30th, myself along with the University of Florida Counseling & Wellness Center’s AWARE Ambassadors activated JWT’s I Will Listen Campaign, created for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. For three days we were out on UF’s campus spreading them message of the I Will Listen campaign and recording both student and faculty’s pledge to listen. As per the norm for the campaign, we had students and faculty say either a personal story they have about mental illness or one of the facts provided by NAMI about mental illness, and end with them saying their name and “I Will Listen.” When people heard about the campaign, we received an overwhelmingly positive response. A lot of people we’re happy to hear that a campaign of this kind had been started. Over the 3 days we were able to record over 100 people pledging to listen. Mixed in with these 100+ videos were several personal stories about mental illness how it affected people students knew and even themselves, which to me, showed how necessary focusing on the topic was. On October 30th, our Day Without Headphones, we had over 300 people show their participation by wearing an I Will Listen sticker around campus and not wearing headphones. Even more participated without the sticker. From conversations I had with multiple people after the Day Without Headphones, I found out that a lot of people were asked why they were wearing the sticker, which created even more opportunities for the message of the I Will Listen campaign to be shared. I myself was asked several times during the day and took every opportunity to explain the purpose and mission of the I Will Listen campaign.
I was also able to gain the support of the Gainesville Chapter of NAMI and they disseminated information about the I Will Listen campaign on their social media channels. They also gave us cards to hand out with information about how people dealing with mental illness could get help.
In addition to the support I was able to get from the AWARE Ambassadors and NAMI, I was able to coordinate with the University of Florida’s Associate Dean of Students to get information about the I Will Listen campaign into the Gator Times, which is an email newsletter sent out to all 32,000+ students who attend the University of Florida. The I Will Listen message was sent out in the Gator Times every day during the week of October 28th-November 1st along with a mental wellness tip. We were helped tremendously by the support we got from student organizations such as the Black Student Union, the Women’s Student Union and the Psychology Club who spread the message of the I Will Listen campaign to their members.
Overall, I believe it was a very successful activation of the campaign at the University of Florida and I’m thrilled at all of the people who were able to participate and see that their really are people out there who are willing to listen to others dealing with mental illness.