Connect1 raises awareness for depression

by Editor-In-Chief Jasmine Fleming

As the semester comes to an end, one organization continues its goal of connecting students one by one.

Connect 1, a campaign through the North Alabama Department of Athletics, aims to show students they are “more than just a like.” The organization encourages a step back from social media and more personal communication, especially with new people, according to a September 2016 article in The Flor-Ala.

Although the semester is almost over, Connect 1’s job is not quite done for spring 2017.

“We are finishing up a few projects to release right before and during finals to communicate value and identity,” said UNA Athletics Graduate Assistant Kyle Conkle in an email. “The hope is to redirect and shift focus from grades and testing in order to decrease depression and anxiety.”

Stay tuned for these projects by following @UNAAthletics on Twitter.

The most recent efforts to connect students came from Hey Day, an event during Student Government Association’s Purple Reign Week, which included tailgates and a Commuter Appreciation Day.

During the March 20 event, SGA members and student athletes handed out food, swag items and nametags at Harrison Plaza Fountain for students to use, said SGA President Sarah Green.

“We all just hung out around the plaza and said ‘hey’ to every student who passed us by,” she said. “We told them it was Hey Day and to pass their ‘hey’ along to everyone they saw on campus.”

Connect 1 also handed out over 750 bracelets in a two-hour span during the event, Conkle said. Students can take one bracelet and share another to make a friend.

The event was also the beginning of a Connect 1 and SGA partnership, which the groups first discussed in a Senate meeting Jan. 26.

“SGA has been great to work with, and we are thankful for support from such an influential body on campus,” Conkle said. “We do plan to continue working with SGA as well as expanding to other routes in order to spread our message as much as possible because people need to hear it.”

Since introducing the program, Conkle said athletics has reached thousands with Connect 1 resources, but that is not the measure for success.

“If this program helps one person in terms of psychological well-being, confidence in identity and value, or even prevents an individual from taking drastic measures, it’s worth the effort,” he said. “We have already seen how this program has impacted individuals, and we believe the unseen impact Connect 1 has had on this community is even greater.”

Connect 1’s goals also go beyond UNA, as the hope is to eventually reach other college campuses, Conkle said.

“Other goals include seeing an increase in communication and relationships amongst the student body and a decrease in percentage of individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts,” he said. “We plan to enhance our marketing efforts behind the program going forward to broaden our population reached.”

Connect1 also has biweekly Action Ideas to encourage students to reach out to one another. They are:

1. Have student athletes and SGA members engage in a one-minute conversation with a new friend and encourage students to join one registered student organization.

2. Eat one meal a week with a friend without a cellphone.

3. Hold the door open and say hello to one person daily.

4. Make one trip across campus with a mission to say hello to everyone you pass.

5. Give one Gotcha Card and have a conversation with a new friend.

6. Do one activity with a Gotcha Card partner.

7. Eat one meal with a new friend.

Freshman Carlos Davis said he would be interested in achieving some of these goals.

“I feel like it would let you into someone else’s world,” he said. “When you say hey to someone new or eat lunch with them, it opens up the possibility for a new friendship to form.”