LU focuses on mental health

Caitlin Williamson

For many students, Reading Period is a chance to recuperate from a week of midterms, papers and presentations. However, sometimes students need more than just a few days of rest to overcome their stress or anxiety levels – a common mental health occurrence.
This year, the Student Wellness Committee and the Health and Counseling Services have been focusing on mental health awareness. Mental health is an issue that is often overlooked, but that affects many people. According to the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign (nostigma.org), one out of five young people suffer from some form of diagnosable mental illness. However, only a third of those people seek help for them. The Lawrence campus statistics aren’t any better: only 16-17 percent of Lawrence students directly use the counseling services available.
As a result, the Wellness Committee and Health and Counseling Services are working together to better promote the resources available to students, as well as provide information about mental health issues on campus.
“I think last year between everything that happened on campus, people were frustrated that there wasn’t really an outlet to talk about mental health issues, and we’re hoping to reduce the stigma that we can’t talk about it, and provide places we can talk about it,” said senior Susan Chadwick, President of the Student Wellness Committee. “The goal is that we want people to be aware that it’s more common than you think and it is an issue on our campus and one that won’t go away unless we talk about it.”
Mental Health Awareness Week was the first week in October, marked on campus by the passing out of green ribbons, a walk with the local chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illnesses (NAMI) and a discussion panel on depression. In addition to Mental Health Awareness Week, Wellness Committee is sponsoring a Wellness Fair on Thursday, Nov. 13 from 8-10 p.m. in Riverview, focusing on mental health awareness. The fair will provide resources from on- and off-campus for students to use, along with information on mental health issues.
Health and Counseling Services has also played a part in the focus of mental health awareness on campus. All of the counselors have increased their walk-in availability time to one and a half hours per day. Counseling services offer scheduled appointments for developmental and mental health counseling, encompassing everything from stress and relationship issues to anxiety and depression.
Counseling services is currently applying for a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant that provides money for suicide prevention on college campuses. A board of campus community members met earlier in the year to discuss the need for the grant, which would provide money for educational programs, informational materials and training for members of the community to recognize and respond to students who are in distress.
“Overall, the general goal is to raise awareness and to make people feel more confident that they know how to respond or to seek help,” Director of Counseling Services Kathleen Fuchs said. “We’re hoping these efforts can help lower stress for all members of the community, and that increased coordination among helpers will ensure that more people get the help they need.

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