CSG kicks off new mental health support network

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By Tanaz Ahmed, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 22, 2014

An array of student leaders gathered in the Michigan Union Monday for the launch of the Wolverine Support Network, a University-wide peer support program designed to improve mental health.

The initiative aims to help students work through their issues with WSN student leaders in weekly meetings, which are set to begin in January. In addition to weekly meetings, the network will also host events on Fridays that will focus on community building and mental health education.

The support network was one of the main initiatives that CSG President Bobby Dishell, a Public Policy senior, based his platform on during last year’s student government elections.

“The number one place students turn to for a personal issue is their friends,” Dishell said during the launch. “However, there is currently not a space where this is encouraged or facilitated. That’s why we came together to really create this… Our mission statement is that we empower University of Michigan students to create a community to support each other’s mental health.”

CSG worked with the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services to create the program. CAPS will train WSN student leaders through a three-day retreat as well as consultations with CAPS staff throughout the semester. Applications for students interested in becoming WSN leaders are due Oct. 22.

“I think it holds a promise of a wonderful idea to help complement all the other things on campus around mental health,” CAPS Director Todd Sevig said. “Some of that is CAPS, some of that is our Department of Psychiatry, some of that is the Depression Center... I really want to promote the idea of peer education, peer support, friends helping friends and I think Wolverine Support Network holds the promise of that.”

Karin Arizala, a CAPS staff psychologist who previously worked with students on mental health training at the University California, Santa Barbara, said she plans to work with WSN student leaders during their training.

“I think that’s one of the really profound parts of this style of service is that it’s driven by students and students know students best,” Arizala said.

Leaders from approximately 17 student organizations attended the launch, including the South Asian Awareness Network, LSA Student Government, MHacks and TedXUofM.

“This is something that affects a large student population on campus and as a governing body of one of the largest student organizations, I hope to raise awareness about mental health,” LSA SG President Natasha Dabrowski, a LSA senior, said during the launch event.

LSA junior Hannah Lee, a community assistant at Alice Lloyd Residence Hall, said WSN will be beneficial for students.

“Students will get a lot out of it,” she said. “They’re not going to want to talk to an adult about issues that they are facing currently. It would be less like a therapy session and more like a peer-on-peer discussion.”

However, some students are slightly more wary of the program.

“I would be skeptical about sending my residents to a pilot program over CAPS,” said Rackham student Akshay Kini, a resident adviser. “I think members of Res Staff have the training and the experience to offer the first level of support that this network seems to provide.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the WSN applications would become available Oct. 22.