In an effort to bear down on mental health awareness, one UA student traveled to ASU’s Tempe campus with one purpose: to build a wall of memes.
For Ali Alshehri, a senior in UA's College of Science, memes are a part of everyday life. Even his van, which he spent two nights in while preparing to install his wall of memes, is covered in stickers, many of which reflect online jokes. “Honk 4 Memes” is written in large lettering on his van window, along with “#Kanye 2020” and “Area 51 survivor.”
However, Alshehri’s trip to the Tempe campus was focused on doing more than simply making others laugh. The wall of memes, which he displayed at the Memorial Union on Tempe campus, also works to bring in donations to suicide prevention charities.
Here’s how it works: Alshehri taped around 400 memes to a wall outside of the Memorial Union. If students wish to contribute to the wall, they must either donate a dollar to any suicide prevention charity or reach out to a friend they have not talked to in a year or more.
According to his website, donations and contacts are accepted on an "honor code" basis. From there, they are free to print out and add their “spiciest meme” to the wall.
“School life takes a toll on students, I want this to be something to brighten people's days as they walk by,” Alshehri said. “I’m just trying to make the world a little bit better by putting up something anyone can contribute to.”
This wall, which was completed on Saturday is not Alshehri’s first. His first wall was installed at UA and later taken down for reasons unknown. However, Alshehri found it easier to seek forgiveness than permission, an idea he also applied to ASU’s meme wall.
“Eventually, I’d love to see this become a challenge across the different schools in Arizona,” Alshehri said. “What is really important to me is that at each campus people can grow their own wall like a collaborative work of art.”
He hopes this wall of memes will promote mental health awareness as well as a meme wall competition between all Arizona colleges by using “#MemesChallenge” on social media.
“I really want this idea to propagate,” he said. “ASU’s wall is much bigger than UA's and I would love nothing more than for NAU to take up the challenge.”
Alshehri said now that he has put up the wall, he is not interested in “micromanaging it.” He said that the wall belongs to the ASU community now, and he is excited to see what they do with it. However, this idea may not be perfect.
“If there is no way to monitor what people are putting up it can be a bit of a danger,” she said. “If enough people want to put something racist or sexist up, that could definitely impact someone’s mental health.”
Parsi said the anonymity of the wall could lead to recklessness from people who are taping their own memes. However, she said public displays or discussions that bring attention to mental health are an important player in reducing the stigma.
Alshehri said he has only put positive memes that do not cause any harm on his walls and highly encourages students to do the same.
Matthew Martin, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Health Solutions, said humor can play a role in improving mental health, at least temporarily.
“Humor can be really helpful in sharing human experiences and elevate people’s mood, even if it is just for a little bit,” Martin said.
He said that though the meme wall could offer a collaborative humorous project, the wall is no substitute for professional help for those who have depression or other mental conditions.
For Alshehri, the purpose of the wall is simple: bring a little light-heartedness and encourage community connection while bringing awareness to mental health.
“The reaction I got from students at my school was worth all the hard work,” Alshehri said. “I just want to bring a little bit of light where I can.”