Dianna Paige ’19, who is double majoring in psychology and mental health and society, recently joined a prominent group of mental-health professionals to present at the 2016 East House Recovery Conference. East House is a non-profit in Rochester, N.Y., that provides recovery services and programs for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders.
With an interest in childhood and teenage mental illness, Paige spoke before more than 100 healthcare professionals, mental-health advocates and mental illness survivors about “If You Really Knew Me,” a mental-health advocacy project she conducted during her senior year at Fairport High School.
For the project, Paige dispensed notecards among her schoolmates and, with the promise of anonymity, requested that they write something nobody knew about them. Neither hoping nor expecting the cards to reveal secrets of pain, struggle and mental illness, Paige was shocked by how many students reported struggling with physical and emotional abuse, suicidal thoughts, body image issues, self-harm, anxiety and other troubling experiences.
Paige felt compelled to transform the material into a positive message and posted the responses on a large bulletin board in the school hallway and created a YouTube video, which has amassed nearly 22,000 views. Paige screened the video during her East House talk.
“I take a great deal of pride in being able to talk about my project, especially in front of so many influential and important people,” says Paige, hoping that her presentation will help bring “If You Really Knew Me” to other schools and communities.
Paige welcomed the opportunity to share the perspective of her generation, a demographic she views as crucially important both because it is experiencing increasing rates of mental-health problems and because she believes that young adults, whom she says are “significantly more open to talking about their mental issues,” have a vital role in the fight to raise awareness of mental health.
“We as a society, however, neglect to recognize the importance of mental health advocacy,” Paige says. “I think ‘If You Really Knew Me’ has the potential to grow into something even more amazing.”
On campus, Paige serves as vice president of the Girl Up Club, and is a member of the Beautiful Minds mental health advocacy club and the Mosaic NY 2016-2017 company. At the Centennial Center for Leadership, she’s involved in the HWS Leads program, participated in the 2015 Leadership Institute, and will serve as a Home Group Leader in Leadership Institute this year, offering a workshop on the relationship between leadership and mental health.