Student Life director plans most expansive Mental Health Awareness week yet


Meghann Ferguson, ASWSU Student Life director, said the education this week will help campus leaders save lives.

The ASWSU Student Life director said this semester’s mental health awareness week, Nov. 1-4, will be the most extensive yet, with an expert guest speaker and involvement from national organizations and campus resources.

Student Life Director Meghann Ferguson led the efforts in organizing this week’s schedule, starting with today’s tabling on Glenn Terrell Friendship Mall. Different organizations tried planning similar events before but never found the success Student Life has this year, Ferguson said.

Mental health awareness week will focus on student health and the education of student leaders, she said.

“Students have committed suicide,” Ferguson said. “I want to make it a priority on our campus to show students who may be suffering that we do care.”

The four day event begins with all-day tabling from ASWSU and To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a non-profit organization that fights addiction, depression and suicide. Students from TWLOHA’s WSU chapter will have a mural where people can place a handprint, showing they or someone they know suffers from mental illness, Ferguson said.

Health & Wellness Services will hold two educational seminars for student leaders on Wednesday. Ferguson said members of the Residence Hall Association attend similar programs over the summer.

“We wanted to make sure all different leaders on campus have the skillset and knowledge to potentially save someone’s life,” she said.

Victoria Braun, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Health & Wellness Services, contributes to mental health education at WSU. Braun said she worked with Student Life to organize student leaders’ seminar and free, open trainings called Campus Connect.

There will be four Campus Connect sessions in the spring semester, Braun said. Students learn how to respond to general health crises, specifically suicide crises. It will also feature CPR training, she said.

Registration forms for the sessions will be available on the Health & Wellness Services website.

Hakeem Rahim, certified National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) speaker, will talk about his experience with Bipolar Disorder and stigmatization on Thursday.

Rahim is a national board member of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and co-founded the Uniondale Foundation for Educational Excellence 10 years ago and currently serves as co-president. He was the first male African-American valedictorian to graduate from Uniondale High School, which is supported by the foundation.

Rahim was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while attaining his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard. He also has a dual master’s degree from the Teacher’s College of Columbia University.

The event will end Friday with a ball pit and movie showing at the CUB.

Both Braun and Ferguson said the university must address the origins of mental illnesses among college students.

The environment of college can contribute to mental illness, Ferguson said.

“Uncontrollable stress is where a lot of issues start,” she said. “We want to start at the point where it all began.”

Braun said that prevention also includes health promotion.

Ferguson said she worked with ASWSU Senators Devon Holze and Garrett Kalt in writing a resolution encouraging the extension of mental health education services on campus. The services would specifically target illnesses common among students, like depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Ferguson said the resolution will make sure ASWSU continues to focus on mental health after her term ends in spring 2017. The resolution should be brought before the ASWSU Senate this week, she said.

Ferguson has already begun work on another mental health awareness event for next semester.

“This issue will never go away,” she said. “It has to be addressed repeatedly.”