Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Interdisciplinary Studies


This interdisciplinary study of mental health seeks to do three things:

1. Identify and investigate the issue of mental health among students within the University of Richmond campus community, through both statistical and ethnographic data,

2. Apply trauma theory to redefine the crisis as a community trauma with unique aspects, and

3. Make a case for hope by proposing a plan that uses self-reflexive art, specifically theatre, to address the individualized community trauma and second-wave trauma.

I explicate new theories in this work, among them the notions of “individualized community trauma,” “second-wave trauma,” and “traumatic fusion.” Another critical concept is that of self reflexivity, as applied to the literary arts. The ethnographic research was inspired by both personal experiences and recent revelations exposing a drastic increase in the number of students seeking professional resources for their mental health issues and/or mental illness. Within the thesis, I redefine this issue as a “community trauma” in which the normal healing cycle has been disrupted by campus culture, harming sufferers and debilitating the community from realizing its greater illness: a lack of empathy. Conversations with informants, both sufferers and non sufferers, reveal that a lack of community response to the widespread pain causes some sufferers to individualize the trauma, in which case it is neither shared nor acknowledged. When the pain goes unshared and unacknowledged, some sufferers also face a second-wave trauma, which may result in the sufferer’s dissociation and isolation from the greater community. In this way, the community may be silently fragmented. I also argue that the fault lines left open by this fragmentation make room for hope. Literary and anthropological texts provide a framework for a new healing process, as self-reflexivity, the act of sharing the self with others, through a cultural performance, could equip the sufferer with tools to cope, and more broadly, equip the community with tools for empathy and acceptance.