On Wednesday, April 17, students, community members, and staff gathered to hear from mental health advocate, artist, and entrepreneur Amanda Lipp and to participate in a peer-led exploratory workshop. Letters to Strangers (L2S), a student mental health organization, hosted Amanda at Beyond Self-Care: Art & Identity in Mental Health in order to spotlight the deeper issues of mental illness that are often overlooked in campus discussions of mental health and self-care.
Attendees listened to Amanda describe her experience with schizophrenia and hospitalization during her freshman year of college and how she learned to take agency over her own story and recovery. Amanda recalled an old box of crayons which enabled her to express herself and reimagine her future. With a powerful presentation and insightful storytelling, Amanda highlighted the stigma against mental illness in a new context involving cultural factors, especially in the expression of different disorders. She then discussed her current work as a documentary filmmaker providing a platform for youth to tell their own stories of mental illness. Amanda concluded her talk with a short film of Ambar, a young adult with schizophrenia and a mental health advocate in her own right.
The event concluded with an artistic workshop led jointly by Amanda and Diana Chao ‘21, current president of Letters to Strangers. Pastel crayons and sample letters were available for attendees to express themselves through etching and letter-writing in the spirit of Amanda’s talk.
Chao said she hoped the event would be a “space to be authentic and allow yourself to be vulnerable.” Ultimately, the event emphasized the importance of personal narratives in our lives and acknowledged the different ways we express ourselves based on context and our current self-
understanding. Amanda’s story and her recovery was a reaffirming moment for all but especially highlighted the experiences of people with serious mental illnesses. It was a space where mental illness was not just seen but humanized.
Letters to Strangers+Princeton is a college chapter of Letters to Strangers, a global youth-run organization that focuses on destigmatizing mental health and increasing access to quality, affordable treatment. On campus, L2S+Princeton runs a monthly exchange with a community organization and organizes on-campus events as well. Learn more about Letters to Strangers.
The event was sponsored by the USG Projects Board, ODUS, the Carl A. Fields Center, the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the LGBT Center, the Program in American Studies. L2S+Princeton is part of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement.