The University of Michigan’s LSA Student Government distributed information on mental health resources to students on the Diag as part of World Mental Health Day Monday.
The Mental Health Information Fair featured seven different tables around the Diag for organizations to provide information on various mental health topics and encourage students to talk about them. Several organizations present, including ActiveMinds, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Wolverine Support Network, were student-run.
University-run groups, such as the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, Counseling and Psychological Services and Services for Students with Disabilities, also provided information to students as part of the event. Representatives from the Depression Center, which services both students and community members as a part of the University Health System, additionally attended.
Monday marked the first year World Mental Health Day has been acknowledged at the University. LSA Student Government passed a resolution last year to officially recognize the day, and hopes to make it an annual campus event.
LSA junior Aditi Rao, LSA student government vice president, said the goal of the fair was to provide students access to mental health support networks on campus while also highlighting how committed the entire campus community is to the issue.
“We want to show what solidarity really means, and it’s not about one org coming out and saying, ‘Yes, we support this issue,’ but about a community coming out and supporting this issue,” Rao said.
Ph.D. candidate Courtney Payne, doctoral psychological intern at CAPS, emphasized the importance of dialogue on the topic, especially given various stereotypes and opinions.
“Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health, and people don’t talk about it,” Payne said. “It gets pushed to the side as if, ‘Oh, that’s other people’s problem,’ or ‘That can’t happen to me; it’s not normal to feel these things’ … This is a common problem.”
Similarly, LSA senior Aparna Yechoor, ActiveMinds outreach chair, said ActiveMinds was there to help destigmatize mental health conversations.
“We need to reduce the stigma around things like depression, anxiety and other illnesses, but even just being able to take care of your mental health, and on stressful days, to check in with yourself, self-care and those types of concepts apply to everyone,” Yechoor said.
LSA junior Bridget Higgins, one of the co-founders of NAMI Ann Arbor, said the introduction of a campus-wide mental health awareness day is an important mark of progress in the way the University handles these issues.
“It’s great to see the University take on a more hands-on approach to mental illness, and it’s definitely something that people are finally beginning to take seriously,” Higgins said.
Higgins said the administration has been more committed to the issue this year than in the past. She noted howver that though their increased involvement is part of what is needed, more institutional changes also need to be made.
The University recently added new counselors and funding for CAPS, students told The Michigan Daily last year that administrative-level mental health support was inconsistent.
Because the event was held in the Diag during a span of several hours, it was difficult to gauge how many students the fair reached. Rachel Climer, Engineering and LSA sophomore, was excited about the event but worried that not enough people knew about it.
“I wish that it were advertised more,” Climer said. “I wish this thematic group of organizations would be a lot more prominently advertised on campus.”
LSA sophomore Marilyn Schotland said she felt the fair served an important purpose.
“This is a very serious issue and not enough people get the help that they need,” Schotland said. “I think this is a great idea. I wish this would be more of a thing. If this had been something at my high school, some things might have been different.”