One in every 12 U.S. college students makes a suicide plan according to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression. Another 50 percent reported feeling hopeless in the past year according to USA Today.
Monday began national Mental Health Awareness week, and as stated by Counseling Center outreach coordinator Rashanta Bledman, the focus is on building awareness about campus counseling and de-stigmatizing mental illness.
“We were just trying to find ways to make our services, make us more accessible so that people don’t just think of us as those people that are in the Shoemaker Building,” she said.
Bledman said she hopes the events of the week helped students develop an understanding about mental illnesses like depression.
“I think sometimes when people say ‘depression’ they’re not quite sure of the clinical term, like how to identify if they are or someone else is, so we just wanted to be able to provide some information on that, but also in an interactive way,” she said.
For counseling center employees like Pepper Phillips, the week was an opportunity to make themselves known on campus.
“A lot of times I think students may even walk by and they’re not even aware this is the counseling center, so it really just makes sure students are aware of the resources they have available,” she said.
The week began with a pop-up session and movie showing in the Adele H. Stamp Student Union, and continued with a tabling event outside the counseling center. The week also included free depression screening and concluded with yoga on McKeldin Mall, for which the Counseling Center partnered with University Recreation and Wellness.
“We wanted to partner with RecWell to also take the exercise class outside of the building and just have in a space where people can see folks of different identities coming together and doing yoga,” Bledman said.
For junior environmental science and policy major Hana Bulow, who said she has a mental health issue, Friday’s yoga event was particularly helpful.
“I’m a big believer of yoga and it’s been a really major part of my healing process,” she said.
It appears as though such outreach has helped. Last year, the counseling center saw a 15 percent increase in new client interviews, according to their website.
Bledman said the week was about making an impact, however small.
“If we could just give information or help one person understand that feels like we were,” Bledman said.
Photos by Christine Condon