Students Care About Mental Wellness and Explore Ways to Cope

Stephanie Harrington for Honors AGH 912

Mental health is something important to us all. I’ve talked to several students on campus about my personal experience with mental health and through my honors projects discussed their struggles. In terms of mental wellness, I found that the top issues are anxiety, depression, addiction, and loneliness. Suicide and eating disorders were other concerns that came up in my research.

My own experience with mental illness was in trying to support my daughter, Anna Marie, who lived with a serious mental illness called schizoaffective disorder. It was so hard to help her. I felt so helpless. Sadly, Anna accidentally overdosed on Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. She was only 26. As a DMACC student, she had just expressed wanting to take more art classes. Many of the normal services she was receiving at the time were more limited and she had lost her job as a nail tech in cosmetology. All of this happened while I was also a student here at DMACC.

In the moments, hours, months, and semesters that followed, I struggled with depression and grief. That struggle is ongoing. I want to help others in any way I could and do something, however limited, about the mental health crisis we face. I know I am not alone.

I decided to explore my love for horticulture and desire to help other by reaching out to other students through my honors project and combining my three passions: plants, people, and mental wellness. I researched how plants contribute to mental wellness and found that there is a plethora of science-based studies on plants and their restorative and wellness benefits.

As a result, I decided to do a mental health plant workshop at a time I knew that as students would be feeling stressed. I wanted to provide something relaxed and fun that students could do to take a moment to pause and just be.

I invite everyone in the DMACC community to join us for a fun and positive evening to explore five Therapeutic Plant Workshops for Mental Wellness from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20. The event will take place in the Student Activities Center (Building 5) on the Ankeny Campus.

Come and visit two of five plant workshops at your own pace, including: Terrariums, Working with Aromatic Plants, Spring “Gnome” Planters, Mini Landscapes, and a Propagation Station. To start the evening, there will also be three brief presentations: DMACC Counseling Department, Polk County Health Services, and Garden Bridge Outreach. Visitors from numerous community mental health agencies will also be present to share their resources and services.

Stephanie Harrington is a DMACC honors student and will graduate this spring with a AAS in horticulture. She currently works at Iowa Central Floral as a grower part-time and plans to work full-time after graduation. She is a mental health advocate and established a non-profit organization, The Sunny Porch, in 2021 in memory of her daughter and continues to work to reduce the stigmas surrounding living with mental illness and substance use disorder.

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