Students discussed uninclusive behaviors in the classroom and the University’s perceived lack of transparency in relation to issues of mental health at a forum on Friday.

During the discussion, facilitators and attendees suggested initiating a required training process for faculty and GSIs to combat the stigmatization of mental health issues and to create more inclusive classroom environments for students with mental illnesses.

The LSA Undergraduate Education Campus Climate Committee held the forum to address of mental health stigmas on campus and how those issues manifest themselves in a classroom setting, according to facilitators Shamaila Ashraf and Toni Wang, both LSA juniors. The discussion focused on possible changes that could go beyond the University's established resources for students with mental illnesses like College And Psychological Services and Wolverine Support Network.

The Campus Climate Committee was formed in 2013, and this is the second of several such planned forums. Wang said the poor treatment of students suffering from mental health issues in educational environments was the focus of the earlier discussion and continued to be significant in this subsequent form because of its direct impact on daily life.

“There are definitely some professors or GSIs who may make it a more intimidating environment for people to reach out, but I think that even those who are more understanding of those issues aren’t being reached out to,” Wang said. “This is because students aren’t being told it is OK if you are struggling through mental health issues and we want you to be mentally well to thrive here and feel like you belong.”

She added that she believes the University lacks visibility when discussing mental health, which prevents students from utilizing resources the campus offers, also, contributing to the stigma professors and students associate with mental illness.

“There’s no transparency in terms of the resources and if people will listen to those students,” she said. “I think that’s a huge issue, that openness, because there’s no conversation. People don’t talk about it even though there’s so many struggling with it, because they feel like they would be shamed.”

Ashraf said these forums are key to sparking action in a school as large as LSA, which has many departments acting independently.

“It has to be taken into account when you’re looking at how to gauge what is a problem,” she said. “In the psychology department, students could be facing something there that students in the economics department aren’t. That’s just how LSA pans out.”

LSA junior Jacqueline Saplicki Lausell said she found the forum productive and was inspired by some of the discussions she had.

“It’s humbling to always see that people want to give back to their communities in ways that won’t only benefit themselves,” she said. “The question of inclusivity is something that this campus has struggled with and what I found very impactful from this discussion is that we as students are looking for several ways to combat problems that have arisen in the general cookie-cutter models of education systems.”

LSA senior Jessica Feather said she felt motivated after the forum to become more involved in the campus community before she graduates.

“I’m really excited that I’m not the only one who sees issues on this campus, nor am I the only one who experiences them,” she said. “Of course, a lot of my experiences aren’t the same as others’, but I like how we can express solidarity and really connect with each other in such a safe space and actually develop ideas for what can tangibly promote change on campus.”

Feather added that the forum made her feel more connected to the campus community.

“There is a community that I’ve missed out on but can also still connect to,” she said. “I’ve also come away with the understanding that my school does care about me and students do care about each other, which is really heartwarming and relieving in a way.” 

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