Students participate in writing on the #ECUSHOES billboard. 

The Center for Counseling & Student Development will host its annual S.H.O.E.S event place today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Mall to recognize those students who may struggle with mental health to remind them they are not alone.

The event itself stands for Students Honoring Others Everyday Struggles/Stories and was created to help students who struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, or addictions.

The Director of Residence Life, Waz Miller, said herself along with collaborative efforts from the Center for Counseling & Student Development (CCSD), students from the Residence Hall Association (RHA), and campus living staff, created the event.

“We wanted to do something more proactive. We put it all together in relation to positivity and mental health,” Miller said.

Miller said that this event will mark the fifth annual S.H.O.E.S event ECU has held. It got its start when the local news reported about “active minds,” which focused on teenagers who have taken their own lives and their backpacks were on display with encouraging cards. They wanted to do something similar before it was too late for students at ECU. 

“There will be a sea of positive post-it notes attached to more than 450 pairs of shoes. We want to raise awareness. That’s the one thing about mental health. It really touches everyone on some level. It’s for all genders, all races, all ages. It’s all very well-orchestrated to try to reach as many people as possible,” Miller said. 

There will also be positive notes in the residence halls, Main Campus Student Center, dining halls, and busses. The busses will also be having positive quotes scrolling through their screens.

The event will provide hot cocoa from campus dining, smiley face cookies and have a big purple stuffed animal bear named “Soks” that will be there for people to take pictures with him, according to Miller. WZMB will be attending the event playing positive songs. There will also be a Snapchat filter and people can post positive thoughts and pictures with the hashtag #ECUSHOES.

“It’s gotten really big over the years. It also lets people know that what they’re feeling is normal in a way and they’re not alone,” Miller said.

The shoes that will be displayed for the event were donated from ECU students, faculty and other anonymous donors. Waz and her colleagues collected shoes two or three times, Miller said.

The students at Hope Middle School wrote the positive cards for the shoes. Though the school didn’t donate any shoes, it tried to match the card with the person who donated, so they have a story, positive words, or the issues the person struggled with, according to Miller.

There will also be a resource table where students can take pamphlets and informational tips on any resources they may need. There will also be a CCSD staff member at the table if anyone gets upset, or needs to process, or just needs someone to talk to. There will be a transit bus near the mall area for people to go in with a counselor to just talk to one on one, Miller said.

“We wanted to do it kind of like a surprise since it is bizarre to stumble out of the dorms and see all these things are out. It really is for any ECU student or faculty or just if anyone is walking their dog through campus. The biggest expense is the shoes, but they’re all donated. This reaches so many and has such an important message,” Miller said.

When people are reading these stories on the shoes, it’ll let them know they’re not the only ones that have these feelings. They’re not alone because it’s something that goes on a lot of times with young adults and teenagers, Miller said. 

“There are a lot of resources and help available on campus. I think a lot of times people tend to hyper focus on the things that are going wrong in their lives. That’s not their whole life. We want to provide hope and a different perspective, and the bottom line is what they’re feeling is legitimate and they’re not alone. There are people here who want to help,” Miller said.

ECU News Services issued a press release to the public on Feb. 6 to announce the importance of the event. The press release stated S.H.O.E.S was first held in 2016 in response to students often feeling isolated or unable to manage their emotions and went on to claim an award for regional program of the year.

“It won the state and regional Program of the Year award […] and went on to be chosen as the Program of the Year by the National Association of College and University Residence Halls. The program was shared with other campuses at the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International conference in Rhode Island in June 2017,” the press release said.

Freshman business marketing major, Haes Shake, plans to attend this event for the first time today. He said he met Miller last semester in COAD class and when she mentioned this event, he was immediately intrigued.

Shake looks forward to seeing how many people show up for this event. He said he wants to help those around him feel better and talk about anything they might be going through, especially if he shares his message and it resonates with someone. 

“I think it’s really cool, I can’t believe that many shoes, stories, and messages will be out there. 400 is a lot. It’ll be really interesting to see it visually. I think that messages around campus are so unique and everyone deserves a little positivity,” Shake said.

It takes a lot of work to set a project like this up, according to Shake. He said there will be a lot of words of encouragement. A simple message or a small act of kindness can immensely change the way someone’s day is going. 

“This event is important because everyone goes through things, regardless of how big or small. This event gives people the ability to understand they aren’t alone, people care for them, and it shows people are actively trying to make the world around them a better place,” Shake said.

The CCSD provides students with short-term counseling, 12 sessions throughout the academic school year. The CCSD’s hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. For crisis screenings, the hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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