In the face of divisiveness that is tearing through the American people, freshman psychology major Angela Veltri decided to take a stand for Waynesburg University’s campus through her discussion group, You’re Not Alone.
“Our main focus is for people with anxiety to know there are people right here on campus that know what you are going through; that they are there to support you,” Veltri said. “Since it is an open group, we like to discuss a whole range of things. Things like coping skills or something that is going on in their lives.”
In her eyes, school counselor Chaley Knight and Veltri originally created the group for people struggling with anxiety. Veltri envisioned a higher purpose for their group, which works against the hatred and rifts throughout America that affect even Waynesburg’s campus.
“I will say our society views these issues as there’s a right answer or there’s a wrong answer. These issues bring so much conflict that it brings the world more anxiety,” Veltri said. “I want to definitely dive into these issues, but most importantly, I want others to respect each other’s beliefs and opinions on these issues.”
Director of the Counseling Center Jane Owen finds herself in agreement with Knight’s and Veltri’s goals and ambitions for the You’re Not Alone group.
“Even here [at Waynesburg], on our level, we can’t discuss things that need to be discussed. You know, like, here’s our side and why we think it should, and here’s our side and why we think it shouldn’t,” Owen said. “We should encourage an academic community that has different viewpoints and is mature and intelligent enough to be able to disagree.”
Both Veltri and Owen recognize that this abundance of despair among people is causing mental illness rates to increase exponentially, especially suicide rates.
“So many people feel hopeless, you know, [they think] what difference does it make if I live,” Owen said. “[They say] the world sucks. People are unhappy anyway, and I’m not going to be happy. There’s a real despondency of ‘life is not good’ for many people who are feeling hopeless. People don’t feel safe or secure. There is a correlation. That’s why there is a rise in people taking their own lives.”
According to the Brady Campaign, an organization that studies and raises money to prevent gun violence, around 59 people every day use a firearm to take their own lives in America.
“More young people die each year from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, strokes, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung diseases combined,” said President of Brady Campaign Dan Gross.
As for Veltri’s ambitions, Owen says she is fully supportive, because it has been proven time and time again that “it is young people who make a difference.”
“We’re all human beings,” said Owen. “If we would just be empathetic and try to see things from other people’s perspectives. We can do this here, on campus, just by talking to each other, getting off the phone and talking.”
The You’re Not Alone group meets every Thursday evenings from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the third floor of Stover Campus Center. The group is open to everyone, and Veltri hopes the group has a lasting impact on those who choose to attend.
“Throughout our lives there will be people who are different or associated with an opposite party,” said Veltri. “These issues will affect people in different ways and, for me, it’s important for people to hear what the other side has to say before they speak and remain respectful of another person’s beliefs.”