From “crying rooms” to crying-friendly signage, jokes and memes about crying areas are everywhere. If you’ve ever felt tears welling up in an inconvenient setting—at work, at school, anywhere in public—you’re not alone, these memes suggest. But it’s also clear, from the humor and derision that accompany pretty much any mention of crying in public, that our society is not at all comfortable with public displays of emotion.
Enter the Cry Closet, which recently appeared during final exams at the University of Utah’s Salt Lake City campus: a small structure in the university library inviting students in, one at a time, to cuddle with some very sad-looking stuffed animals and privately let their tears flow (as long as they kept their emotional outbursts to under ten minutes).
Even though some internet naysayers labeled the closet as an example of millennial fragility and their inability to cope with adult life, the closet was actually a conversation-starting woodshop project designed by University of Utah student Nemo Miller, USA Today reported. “It’s been interesting to watch the response to this piece about human emotions, and I’m proud to see the power of art in action,” Miller said in a statement. The project and accompanying hashtag, #cryclosetuofu, were meant to start a wider (and necessary) dialogue about emotion, and it worked.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and even though the installation was met with mixed reviews on social media, it sparked an important, widespread conversation about excessive stress among college students and the benefits of emotional expression.
Read more at USA Today.