Mental Health Awareness Week to focus on destigmatization


Jess Hodge

Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate has teamed up with the Counseling Center to host its inaugural Mental Health Awareness Week campaign with events happening this week from Monday until Wednesday.

The week will be filled with information about mental health with the hopes that students will become more educated about their own mental health and of the mental health of those around them. 

As student senators table throughout the week and hand out wristbands, the Counseling Center will provide peer educators to help aid any questions or concerns students may have. There will also be QPR training for any student who would like to attend on Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.

QPR training is a nationally recognized suicide prevention gatekeeper training. Melissa Selby-Theut, therapist and outreach coordinator at the Counseling Center, is excited to offer the training as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

“It is great for equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to attend to somebody who might be experiencing a mental health emergency,” she explained. Although the university hosts monthly QPR training sessions, Student Senate will be co-sponsoring this week’s training.

The Counseling Center, in addition to providing QPR training and peer educators, is also providing the university with information about mental health by displaying facts around the campus.

“We provided some facts about mental health, both specific to Grand Valley and Grand Valley students as well as facts that relate to mental health nationally,” Selby-Theut said. “Those will be placed across campus for students to see with the intention of normalizing people’s experiences with mental health and also normalizing mental health treatment. “

Student senators presented the idea of Mental Health Awareness Week after they attended a conference where they decided to make it a statewide initiative.

Kristoffer Butler, a senior on the campus affairs committee, has worked closely with the project and hopes students will learn about the resources available to them on and around campus.

“(It’s) to become aware of the resources we have here at the university,” Butler said. “Help is available when they need it and there is a support system here, not only through the counseling center but through friends and faculty as they stand with them while they are fighting their battles.”

A main goal that GVSU’s Counseling Center wants to focus on for the week is the de-stigmatization of mental health.

“(We’re) encouraging people to reach out and talk to each other talk to us,” Selby-Theut said. “We want students to know that we’re here (and) we have a whole host of clinicians just waiting to help them out. We are being very purposeful about making sure that students are aware of services as a part of this campaign. We want it to be educational, we want it to be normalizing, and we want it to be helpful.”

Student Senate will also be hosting a social media campaign around campus and will be taking pictures with a sign that says ‘Grand Valley stands for mental health.’

“We’re going to have student (organizations) and students walk by while we’re tabling, if they want to, take a picture with it,” Butler said. They are also reaching out to university departments in hopes for a department picture.

Although this is only the first year Mental Health Awareness Week has been put on, Butler hopes to see it continue to grow in the upcoming years.

This week, Selby-Theut emphasized, is not meant to act as pressure for students to self-disclose or act as a trigger. The biggest take away she wants students to have is the facts and the information presented.

“It’s important that any time we’re talking about mental health, we can make sure the information getting out there is safe and in the best interest of the campus community and accurate and clinically sound,” she said. “The more we understand about (mental health), the more it is de-stigmatized but the better people can better interact in a world where a lot of people are living with, surviving and overcoming mental health concerns.”

QPR training will be held on March 16 from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30p.m. in Kirkhof Room 2270.