Spreading mental health awareness

Destiny Jones

GrandPR, a public relations firm run by Grand Valley State University students, is putting together a mental health awareness campaign that will focus on the five signs of emotional suffering. The students of this organization are competing in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Bateman Case Study Competition with other student-run firms nationwide to spread this awareness.

This semester, GrandPR put together a group of staff members that will plan, implement and evaluate a mental health campaign via the Campaign to Change Direction, which is part of the Give an Hour organization. The campaign will focus on the five signs of mental illness: change in personality, agitation, withdrawal, decline in personal care and hopelessness. With their participation in this organization, the GrandPR students have the opportunity to work with a handful of clients and do public relations work.

The Campaign to Change Direction consists of a collective of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders and people from the private sector who have come together to change American culture surrounding mental health, mental illness and emotional well-being. The campaign was inspired by the 2013 White House National Conference on Mental Health.

PRSSA released a creative brief to every participating team, giving them each the same client. There are five students on GVSU’s Bateman Competition team, and GVSU is one of 29 nationally affiliated student firms competing.

Jaclyn Ermoyan, the chief executive officer for GrandPR, is a part of the group that will be competing in the Bateman Competition.

“We got the creative brief in December, and since then, we have been planning, researching and preparing to implement a full campaign that we have actually just launched,” Ermoyan said. “It will have a month to implement and then a couple of weeks to evaluate, then we will turn in the full campaign.”

Ashley Mamula, a GrandPR staff member, is also a part of the group competing in the Bateman Competition.

“One thing that we focused on in our campaign was providing these tools for student leaders,” Mamula said.

While continuing to work on their campaign, the GrandPR staff members had the opportunity to speak at the Leadership Summit at GVSU last week. They spoke on behalf of the Campaign to Change Direction and talked about the five signs of emotional suffering to inform student leaders. They talked about the benefits that understanding the five signs could have on their organizations as well as on their own mental health as leaders.

Lauren Ritsema, a GrandPR staff member, expressed why she thought it was important to spread awareness to college students.

“I think mental health is an important topic of conversation, especially on college campuses,” Ritsema said. “Everyone either knows someone who has, or has personally experienced, mental health issues. For me, it’s personal. I’ve dealt with depression since high school, so this campaign is one that I am really passionate about. 

“The Campaign to Change Direction is doing some amazing work, and our team is honored to work on this project and further their important mission.”

Ritsema also spoke about the main focus of their campaign.

“The focus of our campaign is to further our client’s goal: to change the conversation surrounding mental health in America,” Ritsema said. “They do this by creating a common language in the form of the five signs of emotional suffering.”

The groups will turn in their completed campaigns at the end of the semester. The campaigns will be judged by PRSSA professionals and will be graded for class credit. After the campaigns have been reviewed, three finalists will be invited to present their campaigns. The first-place team will then receive $3,500 and a trophy. All three finalist teams will be recognized at the PRSSA National Conference.

“I hope people are able to learn the five signs and not only that but be able to recognize them when they see them,” Ritsema said. “If one person gets the help they need as a result of this campaign, it will be a success in my eyes.”