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Column: Developing a mental health educational framework for campus

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This column is one in a series from Public Health Discussions, a student consultancy and awareness group dedicated to identifying and addressing public health issues on campus. Founded in 2017, the group has 15 consultants who have worked on three campus projects regarding mental health, vaping and nutrition, and have hosted numerous public health awareness events on campus.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, around 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.  or 43.8 million people  experience mental illness each year. With more than one-third of first-year university students reporting symptoms consistent with a diagnosable mental health disorder, it wouldn’t be surprising if a large portion of OU’s campus suffers from mental illness.

Unfortunately, the cuts to mental health funding have further decreased access to care in a state that desperately needs it.

Even at OU, where Goddard provides on-campus resources, many students do not get the treatment they need. According to a survey sent out by Public Health Discussions (PHD), an OU undergraduate student organization, the three most common reasons for not using OU resources are not being able to afford them (23.39 percent), not knowing about them or how to contact them (20.16 percent), and not having enough time (19.35 percent).

The large percentage of people who aren’t using mental health resources due to a lack of knowledge is alarming.

While there are alcohol and sexual assault training sessions on campus, there are currently no training modules provided to OU students that would educate them about mental health. In fact, 84.93 percent of survey respondents were interested in an educational module and 82.29 percent were interested in an online resource guide.

With these results in mind, a group of students at PHD set out to provide a mental health educational resource for students at OU. The online educational module and peer-led presentation will explain what mental illness is, some myths about mental illness, what some common mental illnesses and their symptoms are and how to respond to crises.

It will also provide a general overview of what it looks like to seek treatment as well as some resources students can contact for help. The goal is not to encourage untrained individuals to replace mental health professionals.

Instead, the hope is to remind people that untrained individuals can make a difference and to empower the attendees in case they are ever in a position to help someone with a mental illness. The online module and presentation are expected to be implemented by fall 2019.

If you have any questions about PHD or suggestions for what you’d like to see included in the training module, please reach out to them at ouphd1@gmail.com.

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