California State University, Long Beach
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Live Your Life Day Event Focuses on Mental, Physical Health Issues

Published: April 2, 2010

Live Your Life Day arrives at CSULB on Wednesday, April 7, with a focus on mental and physical wellness. Activities will run from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friendship Walk and the University Student Union’s south terrace.

Hosted by Project OCEAN, the event was planned in conjunction with the Division of Student Services, Disabled Student Services (DSS), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Associated Students Inc. (ASI), CSULB Active Minds, Star/Soar, Club Sports and Recreation, and Student Life and Development (SLD).

Project OCEAN (On Campus Emergency Assistance Network) was established in 2008, funded by the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant and administered by the federal agency SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The goal of the project is to prevent suicide by promoting a campus climate that encourages students to seek support when it is needed.

Live Your Life Day features a resource fair with campus offices, community agencies and student clubs. There will be interactive demonstrations to promote wellness and healthy living, live music, and educational booths from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event concludes with motivational speaker Jesse Billauer, who was paralyzed in a surfing accident and who established a surfing foundation for paraplegics. He will share an inspirational message about overcoming disabilities and how to live life to the fullest.

“One of the best ways to prevent suicide is to help students to live happy, full, well-balanced lives,” said Project OCEAN Coordinator and CAPS Staff Psychologist Carolyn O’Keefe, a CSULB graduate in 1987 with a bachelor of music degree. “In keeping with that, anything from stress reduction to exercise to balanced eating helps create wellness. We look at students as whole persons and not just cogs in the academic machine. We want our students to thrive. To further that end, we are producing our first Live Your Life Day.”

Part of the fight against mental illness is preventive therapy, explained Brad Compliment, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at CSULB.

“Live Your Life Day is meant to help prevent mental illness at CSULB,” he said. “We want the event to affect the campus in a positive way. We want to help students feel OK about discussing mental health. We want to make an impact and help advance student success beyond the academy. A healthy mind is emotionally free to engage in the academic process.”

It is a day full of activities based on the idea of living life to the fullest, said O’Keefe.

“The day entails a Wellness Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friendship Walk and the USU’s south terrace,” she said. “As part of the fair, CAPS has invited campus and community groups to take part. Participants represent a broad spectrum of experience. There are representatives from such organizations as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center. But the fair wants to focus on more than mental health. The day will feature club sports and recreation including break- and belly-dancing demonstrations.”

Also on tap will be a farmer’s market, a “drumming circle” in the USU and instruction in meditation and yoga.

Project Ocean

Compliment urges those interested in attending the fair, as well as all students, to visit the CAPS Web site with its online screening for such issues as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, bipolar disorders and post-traumatic stress. The link is titled “How Are You Doing? No…Really.”

Project OCEAN is a collaborative effort and not a product of CAPS alone, explained O’Keefe. “We cooperate with Disabled Student Services and the Student Health Services. We target high-risk campus populations such as first-generation students or those with especially high-pressure majors as well as students who arrived on campus with mental health issues already. Our services are for everybody and our outreach is for everybody. If we could get every student on campus to come to one of Project OCEAN’s events, I feel it would have a domino effect with better retention and life success. Students will thrive rather than just survive”.

Compliment believes a big sign that Live Your Life Day has made a difference will be if students contact CAPS and other resource tables at the fair. “I think it will be a success if I see students talking with the fair’s representatives,” he said. “If even a few students begin to understand that mental health is a topic that can be discussed in public, this day will be a success.”

O’Keefe agrees. “Can we get students to stop at a table? Students are often reticent about stopping at the CAPS table because they feel people will think there is something ‘wrong’ with them if they do,” she said. “Our goal is to get students actively involved in the fair. Mental health is not about ‘going crazy.’ It is about being able to live your life to its fullest.”

Compliment and O’Keefe encourage potential participants to make a date with Live Your Life Day. “The simple fact of talking to somebody outside yourself can be helpful in terms of life issues,” said Compliment. “It is very important to express yourself to others through making direct contact. It is the goal of Live Your Life Day for people to learn it’s OK to talk with somebody else about mental health.”

Mental health is a day-to-day affair that can be helped by Life Your Life Day, O’Keefe believes. “We all exist in a spectrum of mental health that fluctuates,” she said. “Part of the day’s purpose is to explain how to deal with those daily fluctuations. It’s about coping and resilience, about learning to get the most out of every day. If students come to see us at CAPS, so much the better. But that’s not necessarily a mark of success for this office. We’d be just as happy if, as a result of Live Your Life Day, if students reach out to a parent, a member of the clergy, a trusted mentor, a faculty member or even a friend. Students will find lots of friends at Live Your Life Day.”

–Richard Manly