Student Body Vice President Maia Porzio has noticed a common struggle among students throughout her time at USC.
“I see my friends struggling with their mental health, and then they'll go and try and get a counseling appointment and there's none available,” Porzio said.
Before coming to USC, Porzio personally dealt with the stigma surrounding talking about mental health. Because of this, she would like to improve dialogue about mental health at the university.
“This would have given me extreme anxiety to talk about (mental health)," Porzio said. "But I've gotten to a point where I'm able to talk about it. Because how can I lead stigma-free if I impose a stigma on my own mental health? I can't."
Porzio plans on starting new initiatives and creating a culture of support at USC by allowing others to know what she's been through.
“Now that I'm in a place where I'm not really struggling behind the scenes anymore, like life's a little bit more colorful, a little bit more happy, and I want everybody to feel like that because I think it just adds so much value,” Porzio said.
Porzio has been the vice president since March 2022 and has spent her time so far planning for this upcoming semester. Her major focus for her term is on student mental health and ending the harmful stigma that keeps people from seeking help.
Blair Elliott, Porzio's chief of staff, said she noticed how widespread the issue of mental health is on campus.
“There are so many great mental health resources that students either don’t try to reach or maybe have, like stigma around mental health and don’t want to reach out to those,” Elliott said. “And then on the back end, there also are some things about mental health services on campus that aren’t necessarily the most ideal.”
Porzio is looking to start new programs to help mental health at USC. So far, she has been involved with some parts of the program called ThriveatCarolina, which is a new wellness hub that also has an accompanying app called CampusWell.
Ending the stigma has become a big part of the change she wants to make to campus. Her office hopes to make a difference by ending stigma around initiatives that are created to help students by trying to change the attitude around them.
Such initiatives include the Carolina Closet, the Self-Expression Closet, the Gamecock School Supplies and Gamecock Pantry.
The Carolina Closet is a resource used to provide students with business professional clothing at no cost. The self-expression closet is designed to cater to gender non-conforming students by proving clothing for them. The Gamecock school supplies offer free school supplies to all undergraduate students, and the Gamecock Pantry was created by students to offer food assistance to the community.
“We want people to not feel embarrassed or not feel like they can't ask for help or seek help or utilize these resources because there's no shame in that," Latham said. “Seeing how stigma plays a role in all of those different events is definitely something and outlook that we've been having while we've been planning these events.”
While Porzio's job is demanding and puts her in a spotlight that can make it hard to open up, she wants to offer her experience to make others comfortable about their own.
“And most importantly, I'm Maia, and I think that it's hard sometimes to put those other things at an equal weight,” Porzio said. “I think it's realizing and accepting that like what you have done is a good job, and really focusing in so that you're using your time as best as you can and still prioritizing yourself as a person.”