On Wednesday night, LSA student government held an event titled “Health Experiences and Expressions Speak-Out” at the School of Education, facilitating an open discussion of the physical and mental health struggles students face over the course of their college careers.

During the discussion, students shared their experiences with physical and mental health in a college setting.

LSA student government representative Natalie Suh, an LSA freshman, explained the goal of the Speak-Out was to provide an opportunity for open conversation between students, in order to normalize struggles with anxiety and mental health.

“We wanted to host this event to destigmatize talking about mental health,” Suh said. “So whatever spectrum you’re on, whatever you fall under, we want everybody to be comfortable talking about it, and to be comfortable expressing themselves without any fear of judgment.”

During the open discussion portion of the event, one student explained the tendency for professors to take physical health issues more seriously than mental health issues with regards to students’ academic needs. Later, another attendee explained the difficulty in expressing depression and anxiety to family members.

LSA freshman Madison Burt shared a personal story about coping with problems of mental health in a collegiate setting. Burt told The Daily  after the event that the small setting of the Speak-Out and the receptiveness of participants encouraged her to share her own experiences with others.

“It was really cool to be able to do that,” Burt said. “Definitely being able to get some things off my chest and hear about some different resources and really just understand that everybody goes through it, was definitely a nice way to end the day.”

Burt was also one of two Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center representatives present at the Speak-Out. She said a central goal of events held by SAPAC and LSA Student Government such as the Speak-Out is to help students understand they can approach University resources with any range of concerns.

“It’s not just sexual harassment necessarily,” Burt said regarding SAPAC’s scope. “Stalking, they take care of things like that too, or just bad relationships in general. So understanding that you don’t necessarily need to fit a certain position to be able to use the resources — just if you need help, we’re here.”

In addition to volunteers from SAPAC, Carol Tucker, a Wolverine Wellness health educator, participated in the discussion, informing students about the numerous resources the University provides to students. Tucker talked about her work with students seeking help related to physical and mental health problems.

“People come to me with all kinds of things, anywhere from procrastination, to dealing with something going on in your family, to wanting to exercise more, the whole gambit,” Tucker said. “You can talk about anything, and we have wellness coaches, not only at UHS and Wolverine Wellness but also other places around campus.”

Among the other resources, Tucker referenced was the Well-being page developed by University Health Services last year, located on each University of Michigan student’s Canvas site.

“The Well-being site on Canvas developed out of a widespread recognition that students wanted to have at-their-fingertips access to (mental health) resources,” Tucker said. “It was a student suggestion that it lived on Canvas. We worked with a wide variety of people, the Wolverine Support Network, CSG, CAPS, lots of other places.”

In reference to the open discussion, Suh expressed the hope students would leave more informed about mental health itself, and the resources available to students coping with physical and mental obstacles.

“I just hope that we come away from today with a more nuanced view on mental health,” Suh said. “I feel like a lot of the times people think about mental health, they go to the extreme, but it can be anything. So I just hope that people will go away thinking, ‘this is a normal thing for me to experience, and I should feel comfortable talking about it.’”

 

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