By Carleigh Turner, The Miami Student
Four months ago, two Miami university students sat down and began planning a way to improve mental health awareness on campus.
The result was a Mental Health Forum, occurring Sept. 15 in Wilks Theater on campus. Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, Miami President Gregory Crawford and Oxford Mayor Kate Rousmaniere will all participate.
This event, organized by Associated Student Government (ASG) Secretary for On-Campus Affairs James Oaks and President of Alpha Chi Omega Christine Broda, is an effort to address a growing interest and need for mental health awareness on Miami's campus.
"Anxiety and depression are the top two mental health conditions we have at Miami ... and the one big thing that we really hope comes out of this is for people to be able to take that next step and go to Student Counseling Services or go to a professional and seek help if they need to," Oaks said.
The forum will begin with a video depicting Miami students who have dealt with, or are dealing with mental illness, and will be followed by remarks from Taylor, Crawford, Rousmaniere, along with Student Body President Maggie Reilly, and John Ward a Clinical Staff Member at Miami's student counseling services.
The forum will also include a mini-resource fair where other organizations specializing in mental health issues will have tables outside of Wilks Theater. Students looking for more information about resources or where to get involved on campus will be able to engage with these organizations directly, as well as talk to someone if they need to immediately seek help.
"One of the things that is going to be key in this forum is getting people to recognize the resources we have, and the resources we need to improve the mental health landscape here [at Miami]," Oaks said.
Broda said the idea for the forum came when she became president of her sorority and began to notice the extent and depth of mental health issues on Miami's campus.
"I felt like everyone around me was struggling at one point," Broda said. "I was like, something has to happen, there needs to be a change."
It was when Broda brought up the need for mental health awareness on campus at an ASG meeting that Oaks took notice and the pair decided to collaborate.
"Our hope for this all is to really expand the services that we offer at Miami and then making [those services] accessible for all students," Broda said. "Students shouldn't even have to think twice about getting help. We want to break the stigma."
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Broda and Oaks were also thrilled to have the support of Taylor, as the keynote speaker for the event. Oaks said Taylor has always been a champion for mental health awareness.
"I am looking forward to discussing this important topic at the upcoming Mental Health Awareness Forum and encourage all Ohioans to get educated about mental health. As a state, we need to get past the stigmas associated with mental health issues and understand that these symptoms, such as depression and anxiety to name but a few, are treatable. You don't need to deal with this alone," said Taylor in an email.
And Miami students struggling with mental illness are certainly not alone.
Over the past five to seven years, the prevalence of students with anxiety at Miami has doubled from 10 percent to 20 percent, according to Director of Miami's Student Counseling Services, Dr. Kip Alishio.
Although Student Counseling Services can and has put on events to help increase mental health awareness, a student-organized event could be more effective, Alishio said.
"There's been an increase in mental health-related events in recent years, but the students taking the initiative is an entirely different level of investment and awareness on the part of the student body," Alishio said. "I am quite gratified that students are aware enough of mental health issues and interested enough to be doing these things on their own."
The forum will begin at 7 p.m., with the resource fair continuing as long as it needs to, according to Oaks.
"I can't stop smiling ear to ear from seeing this coming to fruition," Broda said. "I just can't believe that a conversation we had in one of our meetings is going to have an impact on Miami's campus."
This story was first published at Patch.com, a local news site run by journalism students at Miami University.