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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

How can UC Davis get the attention it deserves for mental health awareness?

EVELYNQUEK [(CC BY 2.0)] / FLICKR
UCLA’s study on depression receives both praise and publicity

College students have a high risk of developing a mental illness. With this in mind, I ask the question: What are universities doing to bring awareness to the topic of mental health?

UCLA recently revealed a study it will be beginning with its incoming first-year students addressing this concern. Upon their arrival to campus, first-years will be asked if they’re willing to be screened for depression. A screening entails a quick questionnaire to help gain a sense of a person’s mental state. If a person seems to be exhibiting symptoms on the surface, further guidance would be offered. The school hopes to gain the participation of at least 10,000 of its new students.

The researchers will encourage some participants who are at the lower end of the spectrum to utilize an online program, designed in Australia, to treat and prevent anxiety and depressive disorders. More severe cases will be directed to campus counseling services. From there, researchers hope to gain the approval of some students to monitor their mental states as they progress in their college careers. The goal of this study is to bring attention to mental health and to show the community that it’s a topic that matters to the school administration. Depression is a major health concern on campuses across the nation. That said, are there other campuses in the country shining light on the sensitive topic?

According to the aforementioned article, a few more universities are pursuing their own unique methods of confronting mental health issues. UC Berkeley provides online training and workshops that discuss ways to manage stress and inform students about relevant campus resources. Stanford University informally screens new students as well and requires its dorm resident advisors to look after their students by watching out for signs of mental illness. San Jose University offers mental health training as well as training in suicide prevention and how to help someone who may be suicidal.

Is UC Davis doing anything to provide similar resources for its students? Like these other campuses, our school is working toward mental health awareness — but it’s not receiving the attention it needs.

In the fall of 2016, ASUCD Senator Sam Chiang established the UC Davis Mental Health Initiative in hopes of raising awareness and providing resources for students who don’t know what UC Davis offers. I have mentioned the initiative to many people, and a lot of them had never heard of it or known what the goal of the group was. The initiative provides workshops on journaling techniques and holds events every day in May for mental health awareness month. They’re holding their second annual Mental Health Conference in January of 2018, where there are informative workshops, student panels and a resource fair. Although it’s still new to the UC Davis campus, the Mental Health Initiative’s name should be popular among the student community. When they’re tabling, the initiative’s members typically don’t have as many people approaching them as Greek life tables or other clubs do. Even walking up to a tent with the words “mental health” on it makes people nervous.

The campus also provides Mental Health First Aid Training and Question, Persuade, Refer training. Both are designed to address mental health concerns and offer ways to positively and effectively support and engage with others who are struggling.

Our campus and others are beginning to take important action in ways that stand out to students in hopes of catching the attention that this stigmatized issue deserves. These events are created to help bring the community together. The topic of mental health should not divide us into groups of who’s “normal” and who’s not. Most of these events are free to students, which makes them that much easier to attend. I will be attending the mental health events put on by our campus this year. Will you?

 

Written by: Jolena Pacheco — mspacheco@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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