Alpha Phis Take Charge of their Mental Health with the Help of Behind Happy Faces

by Katie Gates in Impact

Behind Happy Faces program opens the door for members to effectively address mental health challenges

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a crucial time to educate one another on and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and illness. This year’s theme, “Back to Basics,” aims to provide the public foundational knowledge about mental health and through Behind Happy Faces, Alpha Phi collegians and alumnae are learning relevant lessons on how to effectively address mental health, discuss emotions, and cultivate a culture of care in their chapters.

Piloted in Fall 2020 and expanded in Spring 2021, Behind Happy Faces is an evidence-based, award-winning program co-developed by Ross Szabo of the Human Power Project. Looking to address the rise in college-aged women experiencing moderate to high stress and registering a positive suicidal screening, as reported by the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, the program features two complementary tracks tailored to the collegiate and advisor experience. While both tracks provide clinical mental health education on topics like the mental health spectrum, healthy coping mechanisms, and signs of a mental crisis, Behind Happy Faces for collegians is a nine-lesson peer-to-peer facilitated program addressing topics like identifying stress, procrastination, the neuroscience of happiness, and sister-to-sister conversation, while Behind Happy Faces for advisors is a five-lesson online workshop featuring lessons on handling crisis situations and self-care for advisors.

Epsilon Kappa’s Executive Board attending Alpha Phi Leadership Conference 2022

Designed to maximize retention and improve members’ emotional relationships with themselves and others, participants in the Alpha Phi-tailored curriculum have left the program more knowledgeable on defining mental health, reframing stress, and identifying themselves on the mental health spectrum. For chapters like Epsilon Kappa at West Chester University, chapter leaders have also witnessed an improvement in accountability and strengthened trust among their sisters. Amanda Bastone (Epsilon Kappa–West Chester), Chapter President, remarked that “implementing more mental health awareness [into] our chapter meetings has made such a difference with the way our sisters approach us when they need us because we created this long-lasting bond of trust that will never be broken.”

“[Behind Happy Faces] allowed me to understand that I am not alone, and it opened a huge space of comfortability within myself and my chapter sisters to share what we are feeling.” – Amanda Bastone (Epsilon Kappa – West Chester), Chapter President

Sneha Ballakur (Epsilon Kappa–West Chester), Vice President of Health, Wellness, and Accountability shared similar sentiments, adding that “sometimes it can be hard to talk about a topic in such a broad space, but our chapter has found a way to approach those situations in a personal way. By doing this we have been able to create a positive atmosphere throughout our chapter, as our women feel comfortable to know we have each other’s backs.”

Since the launch of Behind Happy Faces, over 1,600 collegiate and alumnae Alpha Phis have improved their critical thinking skills regarding accountability and mental health. Through the support of Alpha Phi Foundation’s Leading With Heart donors, the program is now set to expand in its third year to include additional courses on conflict resolution, anxiety & depression, and risk assessment. By ensuring more members are prepared with the knowledge to promote a culture of compassion in their chapters, Alpha Phi is playing its part to contribute to a more supportive and caring community of citizens and leaders.

With a gift to the Leading With Heart campaign, you too can help Alpha Phis improve their mental health and succeed! Learn more about this monumental effort and pledge your support before its conclusion at Convention 2022 in June.

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