Protest Leaders Agree Emotional Expression Improves Mental Health

By: Hannah Onder, Karan Muns, and Tina H.

With Texas Wesleyan University’s smaller class sizes, it’s easier for discussions among students to break out. Sometimes those debates can get heated and escalate.

On the morning of March 28, a protest broke out in the campus mall among students arguing about whether or not people should be happy. The protesters began their gathering following a classroom debate on mental health.

One side called the Smilies, led by sophomore criminal justice Elijah Meyer argued that people should express their happiness. The Smilies promoted this by providing students with buttons and candy.

“Our team motto is ‘Express not suppress’,” Meyer said. “We want everyone to express their emotions, but ultimately happiness is the end goal. We want to work with people and get them to express their happiness. We’re going to go around expressing how we feel and showing that there are things to be happy about in the world right now.”

The other side of the side protest was The Reals, led by senior sociology major Shanice Evans argued that people should express all their emotions not just happiness. This was promoted by giving students buttons.

Shanice Evans leader of the Grumpies leads their protest against only feeling happy emotions.

“We’re real in our expressions,” Evans said. “We’re real in everything. They automatically think if you’re not happy, you’re angry, but that’s not always the case. I want to express my emotions, but telling me to just be happy isn’t going to help anything. I want people to tell me how they feel so that I can help them, not to be happy, but to solve their problems.”

At the 12:40 p.m. press conference in Bragen Hall, Texas Wesleyan Spokesperson Chalon Anderson announced that after an hour of protesting, the two groups saw similarities in their argument and reached a peaceful agreement.

“Both parties came to a peaceful agreement,” Anderson said, “and there was no violence or slander that took place during this protest.”

Evans was happy to find a resolution.

“I feel like the fact that we came to an agreement that expressing your emotions for anything that is good and anything that is not good is a big step in mental health because now that we’re telling everyone including people who may not feel that they’re a part of society that it’s OK to express your emotions. It’s OK to be sad, it’s OK to be happy, it’s OK to feel mad, It’s OK to not be happy. It’s OK to not be OK,” Evans said.

“I feel that anyone who may be suffering from some type of mental illness or are going through something, it doesn’t make them any less of a person. If I’m grumpy that doesn’t make me not normal which means it’s OK,” Evans said.

Both Evans and Meyer agree that improving mental health will help to decrease violence on campus.

“There’s a lot of people that experience depression that don’t necessarily announce it or make it known to the public,” Meyer said. “They just kind of hold things in. They just build up and get worse and that may ultimately lead to violence in classrooms and stuff like that. I think if we take good precautionary steps, we can prevent a lot of that.”

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