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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Forever Me Project: Speaking out about mental health

Thames used the eyes of each interviewee as the intro to his series. GRAPHIC COURTESY OF KHALIL THAMES ’21

In order to foster open conversations about mental health and the challenges people face, Khalil Thames ’21, released his “Forever Me” project in May 2021.

Thames’ “Forever Me” project is a compilation of 12 short videos posted to his Instagram account. Each video features a St. Joe’s student sharing their mental health journey with a focus on their insecurities and how they connect to their identity.

“I wanted people to understand that your mental health and your insecurities are what make you who you are, no matter what,” Thames said. “A lot of people don’t like their flaws or their insecurities, but what’s cool about that, is they wouldn’t be who they are without them.”

Inspiration struck for Thames after having a conversation with his friend about her eating disorder. During their conversation, “She attached [her eating disorder] to her personality, like her mental health,” Thames said.

The realization of how insecurities, mental health and personality all interconnect to create a person’s identity was the driving force for Thames’ project, leading him to name it the “Forever Me” series.

Thames recruited volunteers through a post on his Instagram story, which asked for students willing to talk about their mental health journey. Once Thames had enough volunteers, he started his interview process.

“I did 12 interviews in a span of two days,” Thames said. “I did the lighting, the audio, the sound, everything. My room was like a studio basically for two days straight.”

During these interviews, volunteers found themselves opening up in ways they might not have expected. Zac Dobinson ’22, has struggled with his identity since sophomore year of high school, which led to negative mental health effects. Dobinson said he found participating in this project helped him to take control.

“I was telling my own story the way I wanted to, not the way my insecurities wanted me to,” Dobinson said. “It seemed like just having a chance to talk about [my mental health] … took a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I desperately needed to have taken off of me.”

Danielle Greenberg ’22, another volunteer, has battled with depression since highschool. Greenberg was super eager to get involved because “any conversation starter about mental health is definitely worthwhile, regardless of how small or big it might be.”

“I do think that the project itself accomplished what Khalil and what we all intended to happen,” Greenberg said. “It started the conversation, and it opened people’s eyes to the fact that so many different people have different experiences with mental health issues.”

One safe space on campus is the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) department. This is a “confidential place to explore thoughts, feelings and mood,” said Jennifer Fisher, M.S., L.P.C, a psychotherapist at CAPS. CAPS offers different services to students such as individual counseling, group counseling and workshops.

“When we move into the fall semester, we will kind of reassess how everyone’s doing… what the trends are and what areas to work on,” Fisher said. “But we treat every student individually, so it’s really very individualized what we do at CAPS.”

Thame’s project overall has received a lot of attention and a lot of positive feedback. Each video has anywhere from 700 to over 2.2K views. Dobinson and Thames have both received Instagram DMs relating to their experiences and expressing their appreciation for the project.

“I hope people realize things that they thought were fine maybe weren’t so fine after all or may be indicative of a warning sign,” Dobinson said. “I can only hope that that kind of sparks their own healing and wellbeing process.”

CAPS is located in Merion Gardens A504. The CAPS hotline is 610-660-1090, and is available 24/7.

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Natalie Nevins
Natalie Nevins, Copy Editor
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