Student Services kicks off Mental Illness Awareness Week on Sunday

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The UConn Counseling for Mental Health Services is open to students who are in need of counseling as anxiety and depression increases in college students. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

The UConn Counseling for Mental Health Services is open to students who are in need of counseling as anxiety and depression increases in college students. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

The Student Services branch of the University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) will be hosting numerous events this week geared toward opening a dialogue about college students’ mental health, chairman Derek Pan said.

“This is a campus-wide collaboration between USG Student Services Committee, National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) at UConn, Active Minds at UConn, and Counseling and Mental Health Services,” Pan said in an email.

The week’s speakers include BYU psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, UConn English professor Regina Barreca and UConn Counseling and Mental Health Services director Betsy Cracco, Pan said.

Pan said this week’s events are crucial because they expose issues that are often ignored or avoided.

“In fact, it [mental illness] is very much out there – one out of five people in the US will have a mental illness at any given point in time and one in four people in the age range of 18-24 years old have a diagnosable mental illness (according to NAMI),” Pan said.

Pan said the awareness week will also contribute to a positive experience for all college students.

“75 percent of mental health illnesses arise by the age of 24, and it’s important to educate students on the issues they may face as well as point to resources that can help them tackle these issues,” Pan said.

Student Services has reached out to USG Public Relations Director Omar Taweh, as well as other groups like Active Minds, whose goal is to battle the mental health stigma, to promote participation in the week’s events.

Dennis Mema, the Mental Health and Wellness Subcommittee chair, said it is important to get students involved through direct communication.

“It comes down to speaking with them [students] and getting a one-on-one connection with them,” Mema said. “Hopefully when people come to the events we are doing they will see the work we’re doing and want to get involved themselves.”

Mema said the coming week is centered around breaking the stigma regarding mental health.

“If we get more people to overcome the idea that it’s not just something in their head, it’s something that they can actively be working on, then that would be one of our goals,” Mema said.

Mema said this coming week will not be the last time Student Services hosts events related to mental health awareness.

“In the future, I do have plans to branch out and work with other committees, such as External Affairs, to hopefully pursue initiatives with our state senators,” Mema said.


Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at taylor.harton@uconn.edu.

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