Diversity day informs of cultures, mental health

Tricia Friesen

Last Thursday was Diversity Day, an event that informed people of different cultures, and mental health and illnesses, held in Henderson 100 and 110 at Washburn University.

The event showcased four sessions with panels of individuals that discussed topics like “Mental Health and Aging,” “In Your Own Voice,” “Overcoming Adversity, Encouraging Diversity: Personal Stories” and “Cultural Competency in Large Agencies.” Some of the people that made up these panels were Bassima Schbley, program director for the social work department at Washburn, Stephanie Salisbury, a social work student at Washburn, Joel Stottlemire, president of the Topeka chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Jay Memmott, chair of the social work department and director of the master’s social work program at Washburn.

According to Schbley, this event attracted around 100 people last year.

“[We] try to keep it educational and interesting to attract students, faculty and community members,” said Schbley.

Schbley said the goal of this event was for people to learn more about those who immigrate to the United States and the struggles they face and overcome. Also, for people to learn more about individuals who struggle with mental illness.

“[We wanted] to bring awareness to people about issues beyond color and race,” said Schbley. “It’s not just about black and white anymore; it’s about a whole range of variables that are going on.”

Schbley was a part of the “Overcoming Adversity Encouraging Diversity: Personal Stories” session. She spoke about growing up in Lebanon and living most of her childhood in a war zone.

“My childhood was filled with human ugliness,” said Schbley.

Although Schbley grew up with war and violence going on around her, she was encouraged by her family to pursue a higher education.

Salisbury, who was also apart of the panel, spoke about growing up in a family with an abusive, drug-addicted stepfather and the different challenges she faced. Salisbury credited her school teachers helping her get through school.

“Thank God I had wonderful teachers and schools,” said Salisbury. “It was so nice to have teachers supporting me.”

Salisbury also said that you may think you know someone, but you really may not know what is happening underneath the smiles and good grades.