Monday, the Michigan Theater hosted the concert, “We Can All Change the Story: A Celebration of Hope.” The suicide-prevention awareness showcase was the product of significant planning and collaboration between the Counseling and Psychological Services Student Advisory board and the Central Student Government. The event provided wristbands and free pizza while promoting an end for student suicide on campus and informing students of the services available to them. It also featured several prominent speakers who talked about their own experiences with mental illnesses. CAPS has helped make a positive change in the community and encouraged discussion of a difficult topic with this event. The University should continue to promote and strengthen CAPS events in order to maximize their ability to affect change and reach out to students.
CAPS should be commended for hosting this event, as should CSG for its support. Together they created a showcase that addressed and raised awareness for a challenging subject that is a serious issue both on campus and around the world. The University has the potential to be a stressful environment for many students, which worsens the problem of mental health issues. Stress and anxiety can cause and perpetuate mental health issues and lead to suicide. A study conducted by the American Public Health Association, which was based on data from 157 colleges, found that suicide accounts for 6.18 deaths in 100,000 college students, which is higher than the amount alcohol-related deaths — 4.86 deaths per 100,000 college students. A study from the American Psychological Association found that 15 percent of graduate and 18 percent of undergraduate students have seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetimes.
It’s clear that suicide is a major problem around college campuses, but the stigma around the topic, as well as many other mental health topics, makes seeking help and creating dialogue a problem. Events such as “A Celebration of Hope” help to break the stigma and promote discussion, and are thus critical to the goal of having students seek help. Students can receive help at CAPS, as it provides confidential psychological and psychiatric services for enrolled graduate and undergraduate students at the University. Some of their services include individual counseling, group opportunities, urgent/crisis services, psychiatric evaluations and medication management, and screenings and support for ADHD, eating patterns and substance abuse. In addition, CAPS is involved in outreach and education and works to battle mental health issues in many different ways. This event in particular was focused on suicide prevention, but their efforts promote mental health wellness in general. The importance of such an organization on this campus can’t be emphasized enough.
The showcase was developed and executed in an effective way that helped to address the social stigma that surrounds mental disorders and make students less intimidated to seek help from CAPS. Their use of high profile speakers such as former Michigan football player Will Heininger, Miss Michigan Haley Williams and radio host John Bommarito was an important way to break the barriers of the stigma around suicide and mental disorders because they talked about how mental health issues have affected their lives. Having prominent and successful people discuss their experience with mental disorders helps normalize the issue.
It’s the responsibility of the University to promote, fund and support CAPS in its efforts to improve mental health wellness. The more events, and the more transparent and accessible to students these events are, the more power CAPS has to break social stigmas and address issues surrounding mental issues.
“We Can All Change the Story: A Celebration of Hope” was a successful event engineered by CSG and CAPS that worked to promote an end for suicide on campus and educated students about the services available to them. However, the University should make more events like this possible by increasing their support and funding for CAPS.