If you've ever seen a man with a Wheel of Sex around campus, that is Craig Bidiman, the Health Education & Wellness Promotion Specialist for the University of Massachusetts Boston’s University Health Services (UHS). By definition, Bidiman’s job is to help students with their mental health, sexual health, and overall wellness by educating and promoting for healthy habits. “I just want to make sure that [students] have resources,” Bidiman said in an interview in his office. "I am a resource."
Two years ago, Bidiman and his colleague Dawn Graham worked with UMass Boston’s College of Nursing which provided them the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant. With this, Graham and Bidiman later were able to fund and host regular discussions called UMB’s Sex Talk. These sessions have now been hosted consistently for two years almost on a weekly basis. Bidiman is always hosting different events, like a sex-positive comedy show last spring and this year's “Real Talk Sex Talk,” which 125 students attended. “We wanted to figure out a way to use the grant on almost a daily basis,” Bidiman explained.
Bidiman came up with UMB’s Sex Talk sessions as a stunt to get students discussing uncomfortable topics, sex and sexual health being two of the many. “I suggested as a joke, to have a wheel, a wheel of sex,” Bidiman said as he was playing his guitar. The wheel, which works like the Wheel of Fortune, is spun by a volunteer. It pertains to all things related to sex and sexual health. Whatever category the arrow lands on has to be spoken about. “We wanted to talk to folks in an honest, open way that doesn’t stigmatize the conversation. It makes for a better community... Communication is the central aspect to good relationships whether sexual or social,” he said.
According to Bidiman, about 25 to 30 students regularly attend the different sessions, like UMB Sex Talk and the Wheel of Sex. Some of those students, who struggle with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, see him in-person in his office. “I’ve had students have panic attacks in that seat,” Bidiman said, pointing to a chair in his office. “And I sit on the floor with them and cry with them and let them know, at least you came to talk to someone,” Bidiman said.
Despite his active role on campus, Bidiman has been a health educator before UMB’s Sex Talk was established and has continued to have open discussions about such topics on his punk-inspired podcast titled “Edupunx.” He also has started “The Art of Survival,” a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healing for trauma survivors. In the near future, Bidiman will be giving his UMB Sex Talk-inspired sessions at public universities in Montana and New Jersey.
With his share of accomplishments, The Mass Media asked whether Bidiman was proud of his success. To which he responded, “I’m proud to be alive. There were a lot of times where I didn’t think I’d be here the next day.”
“To a certain degree, there are too many people who suffer in silence and don’t get any help and don’t know how to get help and don’t know what to ask for and don’t know how to put into words what they mean,” Bidiman said. “A lot of my job is helping people find those words.”
This is a UMB human interest story.