LSA Student Government kicked off its Mental Health Week Monday afternoon by gathering student organizations focused on mental health for a Diag Day.
At the far end of the Diag, LSA SG representatives Eli Rachlin, an LSA junior, and Kristen Ball, an LSA senior, blew bubbles and blasted music as students walked by.
Rachlin, spouting positive encouragement to passersby said the Diag Day is an important part of the Awareness Week because of its ability to reach so many students.
“You got to do something where you get exposure … everyone’s down this week, it’s right before fall break, there are probably a lot of midterms, whatever it is — also the game result,” Rachlin said. “But it’s really important to get out there to people who are maybe very stuck in their own path, or whatever’s going on in the day, and say: ‘Hey, be happy! Do something that makes you feel good!’ and just try to take some stress out of your life.”
LSA SG has been planning the week since last year’s winter semester, which will also include events like yoga in the Michigan Union, panels discussing mental health awareness and the annual Send Silence Packing event, where hundreds of backpacks will be laid on the Diag to encourage discussion about suicide prevention. LSA junior Nick Meier, chair of LSA SG’s Mental Health Task Force, wrote in an email interview he finds the topic of mental health on campus to be extremely important and not discussed enough.
“I’ve seen the effects of the poor mental health up front,” he wrote. “I’ve had friends attempt suicide, fail tests due to depression, and been hurt by anxiety. UofM is one of the most stressed campuses in Michigan. Long-term stress can lead to depression and subsequently suicide. We can’t stand idly by and excuse systematic anxiety.”
Meier said he knew there needed to be more dialogue about mental health on campus after an eye-opening discussion with University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel.
“(A)t a Fireside Chat, I had the opportunity to talk to President Schlissel about mental health,” Meier wrote. “He said … ‘I don’t see how many people can be depressed if all I see is smiling Wolverines.’ After hearing this disconnect between the University and the students, we decided we needed to host a week of events.”
According to Ball, chair of LSA SG’s Public Activities Committee, this is the second annual Mental Health Diag Day, but the first year an entire week has been scheduled to promote awareness.
“We felt like last year, when we would just do a single day, it wasn’t enough to increase the amount of awareness that we wanted to bring to mental health and positivity,” Ball said.
While Ball is excited about the other mental health awareness events, she said she loves the Diag Day because of the energy it brings to campus.
“Personally, I have a personal attachment to Mental Health Diag Day because I feel like it’s the most lively,” she said. “But I’m definitely excited for the City Health Forum that we have. We’re also going to be having a TEDx talk which is really exciting. But honestly, all of it’s great. As long as it’s celebrating mental health, that’s all that matters.”
Aside from LSA SG’s table, several other organizations had booths set up around the edges of the diag. LSA senior Emma Abed attended as a representative from CAPS in Action, the student-run mental health group connected to CAPS. The group, which is in its third year, wanted to let students know about its action-based programming and the support people can find within different mental health groups.
“We’re the only student mental health org on campus that has a direct connection to CAPS, which gives us a really unique position and a lot of different resources than other student orgs,” Abed said. “I hope that students learn that there are so many resources on campus and people that want to support them. So if they are struggling or they know people who are struggling, just learn who’s out there and who they can talk to.”
LSA sophomore Ammar Affan stopped by the CAPS in Action booth to learn about its workshops and mental health on campus. He said he thought the Diag Day was a good way to get the word out about mental health awareness.
“I’ve been studying since morning and I just needed a break and I think that mental health is pretty important so I just wanted to see what the University does,” Affan said. “We always talk about physical health but I guess it’s equally important because it’s still health, all in all.”