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Students write letters to those struggling with mental health 

MOORHEAD – Campus Events Commission (CEC) hosted a Letters to Strangers tabling event in the atrium on Tuesday, Feb. 20.  

Letters to Strangers (L2S) is a global non-profit that advocates for mental health. The organization provides numerous mental health services to partner sites such as disadvantaged schools, prisons, refugee camps, and rehab centers. Part of the program includes strangers writing letters of encouragement and reflecting on their own stories and experiences. 

L2S operates through chapters in over 20 countries. Organizations and schools can start chapters or become a partner site to receive services by submitting an application online. L2S works in a non-hierarchical co-op system where chapters have the autonomy to be advocates however their individual communities need, and L2S HQ provides resources. Chapters can connect L2S resources to their communities and function as sites for letter writing events, workshops, and fundraising. 

Without committing to becoming a chapter, individuals or groups can submit letters online, either typed or handwritten. Anyone who goes to the website can choose the level at which they wish to participate by looking at comparisons under the get involved tab. 

Letters are addressed “dear stranger” and signed “a stranger.” The project’s purpose is to destigmatize mental health issues, as stated on their website. The organization also advocates for increased accessibility and affordability in mental health treatment worldwide, specifically for youth. The Letters to Strangers slogan: “mental health made personal” attests to their mission to treat mental health patients as individuals. 

CEC member, sophomore Jayden Olmsted, found the organization this year while doing research for projects that CEC’s service branch could host. CEC’s service branch is a section of CEC committed to hosting events that give back to the community. The branch has hosted other events this year, such as collaborations with organizations like the YWCA and an event where Cobbers packed 100 toiletry bags for the Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo.  

Service projects that work best for CEC tend to be remote, since students can participate from campus, Olmsted said. That is one of the reasons Olmsted picked Letters to Strangers as an organization, but there was more to the decision. 

“It’s such a powerful thing… a lot of times for young adults, there’s this feeling of ‘what I’m going through is nothing compared to someone else, so why would I talk about it,’ but when it comes to Letters for Strangers, the goal is to write about your own experience so that someone else at a different chapter across the United States can read your letter and know that A, they’re not alone in their struggles, but B, you writing that letter is a way for you to help deal with your own stuff too,” Olmsted said.  

It was more difficult to set a goal for this event than it is for an event like Cards for Eventide, since letters are longer and take more time to write Olmsted said. A Cards for Eventide event might expect around 100 cards, but the goal for this event was 25-30 letters.  

Letters were written either by hand or submitted digitally as a typed letter. At the end of the day, Olmsted scanned in the handwritten letters to be delivered to partner sites.  

There may be more Letters to Strangers events before the end of the year, but CEC’s service branch is planning other events as well, Olmsted said. 

“Our whole role is just trying to make the biggest impact within our community by involving our students,” Olmsted said. 

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