By Anne Lally
YSU Assistant Director of Student Counseling
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mental health aware-ness is an important aspect of our overall well-being. When we talk openly about the importance of mental health, we help ourselves and others to feel comfortable seeking support when needed.
Practicing awareness invites the opportunity to establish healthy paths for ourselves. Being aware is the first step to understanding the impact that mental health has on every aspect of our lives.
Having awareness of our mental health increases our awareness in other aspects of our well-being. This increases our ability to care for ourselves not only emotionally but in other areas as well. Good mental health assists us in the healthy physical, social and intellectual parts of ourselves. Being aware provides an opportunity to be positive, healthy role models for others. By helping others, we continue to help ourselves. It truly is a gift to our community that returns to us.
Mental health awareness is also important for college students. Most students report anxiety and stress as primary reasons they seek counseling. Mental health issues can impact students personally and academically. Students experience many transitions and challenges.
College life introduces independence and all that comes with it, including expectations and responsibilities, which can cause stress and anxiety. Mental health challenges can contribute to lack of motivation, focus and concentration, which can lead to failing grades.
Some students struggle with the concept of seeking help. By promoting mental health awareness, we assist students in feeling OK about seeking counseling.
YSU’s Counseling Center uses many ways to promote mental health awareness including outreach, media campaigns and programming.
First-year students receive information about counseling resources through orientation programs and visits to campus. A member of the counseling center visits every first-year orientation class to talk about counseling resources and help students to begin their journeys to manage stress and anxiety. Providing students with the opportunity to meet and interact with counselors in a positive manner increases their comfort levels in accessing counseling.
Our Managing Anxiety Support Group meets weekly to provide a supportive environment for students to validate their experiences and share strategies to manage stress and anxiety.
Counseling maintains a presence on social media, promoting mental health, identifying resources and promoting events. Students are invited to participate with groups such as student government, club sports and The National Alliance on Mental Illness student group, which takes part in our social media campaigns. This increases connection with their peers on campus and furthers the awareness and acceptance of addressing mental health.
Counseling also offers a variety of programming for the campus community, promoting and advocating for mental health. Topics include managing stress, healthy relationships and boundaries, conflict resolution, life transitions, how to access counseling and other resources.
Last, our mental health awareness art contest raises awareness and advocates for mental health through art and is open to all students and any medium of art. The artwork must include an advocacy component to promote mental health awareness and the winning artwork is placed in the counseling center waiting room. Students’ Art Speaks is written over the artwork. This is a wonderful way for our students to be an integral part of mental health awareness. This fall will be our third year of the contest.