Chair massages, stress balls, manicures, therapy dogs and inflatable play areas: just a normal day in college, right?

Maybe not, but that's what yesterday looked like for students who attended the VolAware Street Fair from 10:00 to 4:30 on Pedestrian Walkway.

The event was held to promote mental health and to raise awareness about mental health issues. There were booths from different organizations lining the walkway, and several were giving out prizes and free food.

Though the fair was full of games, prizes and other lighthearted fun, its purpose was to bring awareness to a serious issue. Between classes, homework, social lives and planning for future careers, college students face plenty of stress. Krystal Barnes, an associate member of the Campus Ministries Council, said that taking one's mind off of work for a bit can really help with stress.

"Taking a break, even if it's a five minute break. Talk with a good friend. Contact family. Doing something they (students) enjoy," Barnes said, listing options that can help students de-stress.

"I'm hoping that they'll learn to handle stress. Hopefully, they're able to cope better with their stuff," she said.
Pam Spindel is an Assessment and Observation Counselor from Cornerstone of Recovery, an alcohol and drug recovery center. She expressed a desire to help bring more awareness to the problems which students face.

"(I hope) that they'll become more aware with the issues, especially with young adults," Spindel said. "If they need us, we're here."

Spindel acknowledged the common negative connotations associated with receiving aid for mental health, or admitting substance abuse problems.

"One of the first things people say when they come up here is 'I don't drink,'" she said.

Spindel also noted that the college social environment is a big culprit when it comes to alcohol abuse with students.

"It's the very first time they get away from home ... what do they do? Party," she said.

In light of the recent PIKE suspension, which gained national attention after one student was hospitalized with a dangerous blood alcohol content level, this is something students can't deny. Spindel said that having more events like this fair would bring more awareness to these issues, and hopefully reduce the stigma surrounding the idea of asking for help.

Barnes and Spindel may be glad to hear that at least two students walked away from this fair having gained some useful information.

Gray Coppernoll, undecided freshman, said, "They gave us a lot of stress tips. That was pretty cool."

Natalie Farris, another undecided freshman, enjoyed the activities.

"I really like the one (booth) down there. It was about eating disorders. They gave us an activity to do. (At another booth) they mentioned aromatherapy," she said.