Last Thursday, UW Oshkosh hosted an event titled “13 Reasons Why Mental Health Matters” with Christian Navarro.
Navarro is an actor on the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which aired from 2017 to 2020.
The show had themes of high school students’ mental health and focused on various characters and their mental struggles.
Navarro’s character, Tony Padilla, was a gay Latino teenager whose mental health and struggles were also depicted in relation to his various characterizations.
At the event, Navarro spoke about his own mental health on the show and during the pandemic.
This speaker series is comprised of students and staff.
Bryn Simpson was one of the students who helped plan and promote the event, along with fraternity and sorority life advisor Angie Zemke.
“There were definitely a lot of details that had to be planned,” Simpson said. “I worked with Angie, who helped with his contract and getting the travel and hotel stuff sorted out.”
Simpson decided he wanted to invite Navarro to come speak to the students.
“I chose Christian Navarro because I wanted to talk about mental health,” she said. “I thought it would be much more inspiring and helpful to hear (about mental health) from someone (students) know from the media and (who they) have actively seen his work and know his face.”
Simpson said she enjoyed what Navarro had to say to the students who attended the event.
“He wanted to give others tools and resources that he didn’t have at the time and validate their feelings and what they were going through, telling them they weren’t alone,” she said.
During the event, Navarro shared his stories to impact the student body.
“He cares so much about mental health because he’s been through difficult mental health issues himself, and helping other people is something he was so passionate about,” Simpson said.
Navarro also met and greeted students after the event, where he took pictures, chatted with them and answered questions.
“During the meet and greet, there were even more people sharing their stories and telling him how they struggled, and each time he responded to them as an individual,” Simpson said.
Simpson said Navarro had an impact on the students who were able to meet him.
“There were a lot of people who walked away from this experience with their heads held higher, knowing that someone they admired and had a lot of social influence was on their side and supporting them,” she said.
As for herself, Simpson said the event made all the planning worthwhile.
“It was so satisfying to watch it all come together and watch him interact with the students’ questions and validate the experiences they were sharing,” she said.
Before the event took place, Simpson and several other students were able to have dinner with Navarro.
“(He’s) one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met,” she said. “He had dinner before the event and was so empowering, telling us all that we were doing something worthwhile.”
When meeting with students, Navarro had a positive outlook.
“He said he has so much hope for the future because we’re the ones making the changes he wanted to see when he was our age,” Simpson said. “He really cares about every person he meets and hears their story.”
Simpson said she will take that experience with her after college.
“Meeting him was an experience I will keep with me for the rest of my life,” she said. “I truly believe he is an amazing person. It made a difference to so many people who were at the event because it certainly helped me.”