By Laura Hoogeveen
Approximately 1 in 4 Americans struggle with mental illness every year, and university students are no exception. More than a quarter of all University of Minnesota students reported being diagnosed with at least one mental health condition in their lifetime, according to the most recent Boynton Health Service survey.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014, the University of Minnesota student groups Active Minds and University Suicide Awareness and Prevention (USAP) hosted Mental Health Awareness Day. From 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., people congregated on Northrop Plaza to learn about campus resources and hear stories of success. The day featured keynote speaker University Counseling & Consulting Services (UCCS) Director Glenn Hirsh, performances by the poetry group USlam, along with meditation, discussion, music, and visual displays.
Hundreds of black chairs lined the center of the plaza. Students could write messages and tape them to the chairs, dedicating them to friends and family who have committed suicide or death with a mental health disorder. Around the perimeter of the display, student groups set up tables to share information about mental health resources available on campus and in the local area.
To Write Love on Her Arms was one student group that participated in Mental Health Awareness Day. “We’re trying to raise awareness against the stigmas of mental illness,” said James Coughlin, a participant in the student group.
The group has open dialogue about a different type of mental illness, such as anxiety, at each weekly meeting. Their mission is to provide hope for people struggling with depression, self-injury, addition, and thoughts of suicide while also connecting them to resources for recovery.
Another student group, University Suicide Awareness and Prevention (USAP), co-sponsored the event. “Our whole goal is to get people talking about hard things … stamping out stigma,” said Kelsey Sorensen, the secretary of USAP. “I think it’s really important at college because that’s a common age for the on-set of mental illness and being as informed as possible is very important.”
To learn more about the University of Minnesota’s Mental Health resources, information, and events, click here.