Over the month of May, Oregon State University is celebrating mental health awareness month, which included kicking off OSU’s new mental health support group, the Beavers Belong Support Network.
Nationally, mental health awareness month started in 1949 by Mental Health America, and typically focuses on a distinct mental health-related topic each year. Rather than focusing on these specific topics, OSU takes a different approach, using the month to elevate the conversation around mental health, according to Bonnie Hemrick, mental health promotion specialist at Counseling and Psychological Services.
Hemrick said the wellness events throughout the month are a campus-wide effort, with many departments participating, including CAPS, Student Health Services, Survivor Care and Advocacy, Rec Sports, Wellness Agents and ASOSU.
One of these campus events was the Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention, the first of its kind at OSU. Other events include Unwind in the Plaza, Game of Your Life, ABC Tea, DamWorthIt Softball games, Graduate Student Workshops, Gatekeeper training and Mental Health First Aid training.
“We’re always wanting to raise awareness around positive mental health things we can do for ourselves, and also, how we can support our friends and family during times of struggle,” CAPS Staff Counselor Heather Webster-Henry said.
The Beavers Belong Support Network, a new program created to foster belonging and build community among OSU students who may struggle with mental health, is another effort to address and raise awareness around mental health. The support network will take a community-building approach, consisting of weekly meetings led by student leaders.
Although the program is not set to launch until fall 2019, the support network had their kick off on Friday May 17.
According to Webster-Henry, the group currently has four student directors in the place, but could still use one or two more for fall. Moreover, the group has 12 student leaders chosen, but there is space for up to five more students for fall.
“The team that is developing is just an amazing set of students,” Webster-Henry said. “I am completely impressed with their dedication to wanting to be a part of this program, and their courage to facilitate the groups.”
Desiree McGill, a second-year kinesiology and pre-nursing student, is one student involved in the support network.
“This program is personal to me because I used to struggle tremendously with depression and anxiety after I was sexually assaulted. It took me a while to open up about that topic but it is important to me that no one ever feels alone and know that they always have another option apart from services provided on campus,” McGill said via email. “Beavers Belong is a program to make sure no individual is left behind.”
In addition to the recruitment of leaders, the Beavers Belong Support Network is also looking for participants interested in joining for the upcoming school year.
“I would encourage other Beavers to become involved in this judgement free program on campus,” McGill said via email. “In the program, students have an opportunity to network with other students and feel like they have a home away from home.”
Hemrick said mental health awareness is important for college students because the top impediments that negatively impact academics are all tied to mental wellbeing, such as anxiety, depression and stress.
“The more aware they are of how they can better manage that, what the resources are that they can reach out to, the better prepared they can be to be great students, and great human beings above and beyond the college experience,” Hemrick said. “As far as the Beavers Belong Support Network, it is the same thing -- how do we give students the opportunity to connect with each other in a space where they can be authentic and vulnerable, and where that’s celebrated.”