On most cold Friday mornings in Mar., the Diag is empty. Yet this year, on a windy, 30-degree day only weeks away from the end of the term, the Diag was full of activity. This was Fresh Check Day, a gathering of student organizations and University programs aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues on campus. It was lead by Call for Humanity, a newly created student organization aimed at promoting dialogue and awareness of mental health around campus.
Students had the opportunity to visit different tables and learn about the mental health resources available to students. The Health Science Scholars Program, SAPAC, the Depression Center, Club Sports, Redefine, Body Peace Corps, Out of the Dark and CAPS in Action were all represented.
At the corner of the Diag, the LSA Student Government had set up a nine out of 10 booth. “One in ten college students contemplates suicide,” they explained in one of their pamphlets. “That leaves nine out of 10 to reach out and help someone.” Students visiting the booth were asked to sign a pledge of support as a member of the nine out of 10. Students were also provided information about the warning signs and the steps that one can take to help those in need.
“We started ‘Call for Humanity’ last year during the election period,” said LSA junior Samir Harake in an interview with The Daily. “We wanted to address issues that affect a lot of the students.” The event, he explained, was meant to “bring people together to say ‘we hear this problem’” and to “create some change in how it’s addressed.”
“We wanted to focus on creating collaborative events,” said Rafik Issa, an LSA junior. “Our role was contacting the different groups and getting them together. They all bring different perspectives to this and it has been challenging but also very informative to work with all of them.”
“We talked to the LSA Student Government and the student organizations that do the work on the ground about mental health,” Harake explained. “They affect a lot of the students on campus and they can really create some change.”
In conjunction with these student organizations, the University’s mental health resources were well represented at the event. Student Life’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), for example, had information on the free workshops, presentations and therapy that they offer. Michigan Medicine’s Depression Center was also represented at the event. Though known primarily for their work in addressing mental health policy, they also offer support groups for students.
The main focus of the event, however, was raising awareness of the institutional and cultural changes necessary to further mental health improvement around campus. Though the University does address mental health, there is always more to be done.
“There is so much more that we can do,” Issa said. “While there (are) a lot of resources on Central, for example, there’s not enough attention to people on North Campus.”
“We want people to leave here feeling like they learned something and that they can help people,” Harake said. “We have such a vocal campus when it comes to social justice issues, but this is one that many people don’t want to talk about as much. We want to take away the black hole surrounding it.”
“There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental health,” Issa said. “It’s okay if you are suffering, and it’s good to seek out these resources.”
The event also featured performances from Groove, 58 Greene and Michigan Magic. They helped create a fun and open atmosphere in which students could come together and address this stigmatized topic.
“We want people to come have fun and get some free stuff,” Issa said. “One person suffering is one too many and anything that we can do to draw attention to this is helpful.”
If you would like more information on UM mental heath resources, check out this link.