During the busy week leading up to spring break, while many college students rushed to pack their swimsuits and escape to a sunny beach for a few days, Montclair State University’s Office of Health Promotion caused students to stop and think.
From Monday, Feb. 24 to Friday, March 1, the Office of Health Promotion hosted Body Acceptance Week, a series of events from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. located in Student Center Ballrooms B and C.
Students participated in and admired the contents of the Mirror Project, an art exhibit where students painted on mirrors their answer to the question, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” The responses ranged from humorous to self-deprecating and were displayed on tables for all students to see.
Elena Lymbouras, a graduate coordinator for the Office of Health Promotion, served as a driving force in the event’s success. Along with distributing free T-shirts with the body positive phrase, “Lookin’ Sharp,” Lymbouras shared the Office of Health Promotion’s purpose for making the Mirror Project an integral part of Body Acceptance Week at Montclair State.
“We just wanted to challenge students to think about how they perceive themselves,” Lymbouras said. “Since many students struggle with mental health, the Mirror Project is a way for them to see that they’re not alone.”
The Mirror Project showcased the mirror art of dozens of students from different majors, ethnicities and backgrounds.
Aneta Ostasz, a junior majoring in communication and media arts, was impressed by the Office of Health Promotion’s efforts to spread mental health awareness.
“I think this art exhibit pushes people to recognize the good in themselves and what they like about their bodies because once you start thinking positively, the mental health benefits will start piling up,” Ostasz said.
Many students who painted answers like “self-love” and “happiness” on their mirrors brought to light the way people see themselves in a mirror affects their mental health.
Television and digital media major Gary Brown commented on his initial shock when seeing the diverse answers painted on the mirrors.
“I saw that some people painted the words ‘fat’ and ‘not good enough,'” Brown said. “That was difficult for me to see, but it shows that a lot of people are dealing with self-inflicted body issues and yet here at Montclair State, we are all accepted.”
The Office of Health Promotion has been hosting Body Acceptance Week, including the Mirror Project since 2008. This organization offers a variety of services open to all students as a way of establishing a mentally healthy community.
Their mission is to eliminate the common misconceptions associated with mental health among the student population, increase the amount of culturally aware health services on campus, promote the best practices of health promotion and disease prevention, teach the importance of fostering healthy relationships that lead to academic success and support mental health awareness with theoretical research.