Mental Health Awareness Week offers information, resources for students struggling with depression, anxiety

Hannah Matro

With events geared at promoting mental heath and preventing youth suicide, Oct. 8-12 marked Mental Health Awareness week at Grand Valley State University. Hosted by Delta Sigma Phi and Alpha Micron Pi, this was the first time GVSU organizations dedicated and entire week to the cause.

“We created this week-long Mental Health Awareness Week because our two organizations have both been personally affected by mental health issues,” said Byran Beran, programming chair for Delta Sigma Phi. “And we wanted to do our part on GVSU’s campus to promote mental health and prevent youth suicides.”

Depression in young people is a serious concern, and one that is not uncommon. Often, students in high school or younger develop suicidal thoughts or deep depression as a consequence of a loved ones death or poor family situation.

Ashley Smith, GVSU junior and Alpha Omicron Pi member, developed depression as a high school freshman. Like many who struggle with these issues, Smith kept her problems to herself for some time, but they didn’t go away.

“I was a firm believer that counseling wasn’t helpful,” Smith said.

Once she started counseling, she discovered she had been wrong. With help from friends and family, her depression got better. Here at GVSU, Smith’s depression has become less severe and easier to cope with.

“I have a support system here I didn’t have before,” Smith said.

Mental Health Week started off with the organizations hosting tables in the Kirkhof Center offering information about the free resources students have available on campus through the Counseling Center.

“We wanted to focus on a different organization each day of the week, and really bring more awareness to GV’s campus,” said Amber Cullison, philanthropy chair for Alpha Omicron Pi, who worked with Beran to create a schedule of events.

Information tables were set up in Kirkhof starting Monday, Oct. 8, offering different information each day about mental health as well as information about resources on campus. They also offered different activities for students to participate in.

On Oct. 9, students participated in an activity called Behind Every Smile, where they filled whiteboards with words that expressed what they felt on the inside. The idea was inspired by KnowResolve, a non-profit organization that strives to educate about mental health and prevent suicide.

“This was a campaign to breakdown the barrier that everyone walks around with a smile on their face even when they are facing something much deeper than that, it was to bring awareness that you CAN talk to others about what is going on in your life,” Beran said.

Cullison put together a video, available on YouTube, of the students who participated in Behind Every Smile to promote the campaign at GVSU.

The founder of KnowResolve, Dennis Liegghio, also spoke about his own struggle with depression, which started at age 14. Students gathered in the Pere Marquette room to listen and to support one another.

Students were offered the opportunity to write positive messages on yellow ribbon-cutouts and tack them all up on a banner in support of Suicide Prevention and Awareness on Wednesday, and were joined by To Write Love On Her Arms on Thursday to conduct a Fear vs. Dream activity. Thursday was also National Depression Screening Day.

The week-long event closed on Friday with free Love is Louder pins for students and a banner signing, as well as a free photo booth for students to take pictures holding Love is Louder boards.

“I think overall, this was a great success and I believe that a lot of people got something positive out of the week-long event,” Beran said.

Dealing with intense issues regarding mental health isn’t easy to do on your own. Events like Mental Health Week give students an opportunity to address their problems with the support of others.

“Realize you have a problem – don’t keep it a secret,” Smith said.

If you are dealing with problems relating to depression, loneliness, or thoughts of suicide, contact the GVSU Counseling Center at (616)-331-3266.

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