Last week, the Student Government Association provided a Mental Health Awareness Week for students. On Tuesday, Sept. 12, SGA hosted a panel of mental health professionals that discussed the importance of mental health. Portia Granger, an adjunct instructor in the department of social work here at The University of Southern Mississippi and a counselor for our counseling services, Caroline Smith, the director of Pine Grove’s intensive workshops, Chelsey Hess-Holden, an assistant professor of school counseling in the department of Child and Family Studies, Brettsey Henson, a graduate assistant for the College Recovery community, and April Estill, an Assistant director and Counselor for USM’s counseling services, were all in attendance, in order to arm students with as much mental health knowledge as possible before getting into the thick of their fall semester. These four professionals provided a panel discussion that was informative and fascinating.
Mental illness and suicide is an epidemic among young people in the United States. In 2014 the CDC reported that suicide was the second leading cause of death among the age group of young adults ages 15-24. This fact was enough to drive USM students Corai Jackson and Shelby Gillis into action. Last fall Jackson and Gillis were enrolled in a class for the Office of Leadership and Student Involvement. They were charged with conceptualizing something that would bring about social change, but the pair went far beyond what was expected and made their class assignment a reality. After gaining the consent of all collaborating departments, Jackson submitted the proposal to the SGA senate, and it was passed. Jackson expressed the impact she felt that the panel could have on students during Mental Health Awareness Week.
“The panel was really designed to make more students aware of what these illnesses are and that if you are suffering from any of these things you are not alone. There were a lot of students there last night. I believe if they hadn’t put a cap on the panel we would have gone on all night. I am glad that a lot of students came out. We really wanted to introduce students to those resources. They are resources for us, and they are typically free.” Jackson said.
Lauren Parker, the director of health and wellness for SGA’s student initiatives, was charged with executing the week Jackson has laid out in her legislation. She had to plan everything from coordinating the times and places of events to getting the rights to show the movie “Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Parker explained why she was interested in getting involved.
“There is really a need to for student outreach because there is not a student run mental health group. We have all these resources on campus, and there just wasn’t really a way to publicize them as well. We are trying to reach out to students who may be in need or have questions about mental health. They might not know exactly where to turn for the answers.” Parker said.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness and it is an emergency, you should contact 911 immediately, and if you would like to seek out professional help from USM’s student counseling services, you can call 601-266- 4829 to book an appointment.