Vinny Guadagnino, a former reality star best known for his role on MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” will be the keynote speaker at Miami’s second annual mental health forum at 6 p.m. on Sept. 7 in Hall Auditorium. The event is co-hosted by ASG, Student Counseling Services, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council, MAP and RHA.
The total cost for the event hasn’t yet been determined, but Guadagnino’s $20,000 speaking fee will be paid for by a special student affairs fund, according to ASG secretary of finance, Caroline Weimer. The funds will not come from ASG’s discretionary spending budget.
The mental health forum will be held in an interactive Q&A format. Students can ask questions via Twitter about Guadagnino’s experience with mental health issues.
After his anxiety and depression spiked, Guadagnino left “Jersey Shore,” and became an advocate for several causes — mostly mental health, but also LGBTQ rights, animal rights, and bullying.
Guadagnino co-wrote a book titled “Control The Crazy: My Plan To Stop Stressing, Avoid Drama, and Maintain Inner Cool.” He also launched a clothing line with an anti-bullying message (the shirts read “F— Bullies”). He’s also a member of the Jed Foundation, a mental health advocacy organization.
But despite his fame, ASG’s secretary of media relations, Gaby Meissner, believes that Guadagnino will provide a relatable voice to students.
“As we opted for a younger speaker, we felt that Vinny’s past experiences, on and off of the show, will relate to what many Miami students are currently encountering,” Meissner said.
So when ASG sought a speaker, the cabinet quickly settled on Guadagnino (though, Meissner said, ASG also considered Demi Lovato and other mental health professionals).
RHA president Sarah Fraley, whose organization contributed $2,000 for the event, was initially unsettled by a speaker like Guadagnino.
“I remembered the show, and I thought…um, maybe,” Fraley said. “[But] he’s dealt a lot into the topics of depression, anxiety, social pressure, a lot of the things that he himself felt on the show, and which would be relayed back to our community because we all grew up watching it.”
In addition to Guadagnino’s interactive speech, the coordinating organizations have lined up several other speakers for the forum. Will Ziegert, ASG’s secretary for on-campus affairs, will introduce the speakers. Student body president, Maggie Callaghan, will speak to her personal experiences with mental illness. Rose Marie Ward, a public health professor, will speak about resources from Student Counseling Services available to students.
At the event, the organizers have resources in place for students who react to the forum or have additional questions.
Notably, some organizers hope that this event will be record-breaking. The Guinness World Record for largest mental health lecture is 538 students. Maybe, Fraley says, Vinny can help us beat that.