Your Gifts at Work: Starting Difficult Conversations with Behind Happy Faces

December 4th, 2020
Filed Under: Foundation | Guest Post

Katie SullivanBy Katie Sullivan, Theta Rho—Sacred Heart University

Before coming to Sacred Heart as a freshman, I was insecure. When I got to college, ADPi opened me up to a group of confident, accepting, and encouraging young women. My first year, I was elected to serve as Ronald McDonald House Charities Coordinator for our chapter. I loved ADPi, and I loved the position.

As most college sophomores, I was still trying to find my footing at SHU and within the sorority. My little sister in the chapter transferred to another school, and I felt disconnected when so many fall activities focused around big/little relationships. It was a rough time and I didn’t run for another officer position. I backed away from ADPi. I didn’t feel relevant to the chapter, and I questioned whether anyone cared. I was close with a few older sisters, and they asked why I wasn’t as involved. I expressed how with my anxiety, I was overwhelmed when I would arrive for events and activities and there were twenty to thirty minutes of small talk. I never knew who to talk to and I was worried I would be bothering someone if I jumped into their conversation. My solution was just to pull back and not attend anything.

Fast forward to the following Fall semester, my advisors told me about the new Wellness Specialist position. I knew this was my opportunity to extend help to fellow sisters who felt as I did, similar to the way older sisters did for me. I knew I could connect with sisters and make sure no one felt alone or isolated. I knew I could provide an opportunity for sisters that were struggling to ask for help. I was elected to be Theta Rho’s first Wellness specialist, and it is one of the highlights of my college career.

To start, I let sisters know that I can be their personal point of contact. I started reviewing event attendance and looking for opportunities to reach out to sisters to let them know they are missed and wanted. I may be a social work major, but it was important for my mental health and wellbeing that I was not the chapter’s therapist. I wanted to provide support and help sisters find the tools they needed to succeed in college.

As I started diving deeper into my position, I found that we had access to a mental wellness resource called Behind Happy Faces. The presentations offered there are thorough, but not cheesy. I find that a lot of my peers don’t respond well to mental health resources when they don’t feel authentic. High school programs focused on mental health would encourage intense vulnerability and extremely personal conversations just to be brushed aside when the hour was up. Behind Happy Faces doesn’t feel this way.

In April, our chapter tragically lost a sister to suicide. Due to the pandemic, we were all home. The majority of sisters learned about the tragic news through email. It was exceptionally hard that we couldn’t grieve together. I spent the coming months talking with sisters, and I found a great tool in the Behind Happy Faces program called, “Creating Effective Coping.” It opened conversations about coping with all the types of grief we were going through at the moment.

Behind Happy Faces has given me a starting point for difficult conversations. It has helped me find the right words when I was nervous. It allowed me not to gloss over anything, but also made sure I didn’t have a heavy approach that turned people away.

I’m grateful that the Alpha Delta Pi Foundation has provided the funding for this resource. It’s a tool I have used and that has resonated with our chapter members. Our sisters feel supported personally by a fellow sister sharing this resource with them, but they also feel confident in being in a sorority that prioritizes mental wellness.

With your support, you are showing that Alpha Delta Pi unites in caring about the mental health and wellbeing of all its sisters- collegiate and alumnae.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, resources are available 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The Crisis Textline can be reached by texting HOME to 741741. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.