Forum increases awareness of mental health resources

Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor
Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor

To help remedy mental health concerns on campus, the University of Miami hosted its first student-led forum on mental health Tuesday night.

Around 100 students filled the Student Activities Center Ballroom East to ask a panel of experts questions, discuss the issue of mental health on campus, and find a way to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health.

The Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC), Student Government and Miami Mindfulness hosted the event. According to freshmen Austin Eng, one of the event’s organizers, it was the first student-led forum of its kind to be held at UM.

Eng, the co-president-elect of SHAC along with Kristiana Yao, said he started organizing the event after a death on campus in the fall. With rumors of suicide swirling around campus whenever a student passes away, Eng decided the misconceptions around suicide and mental health needed addressing.

“We are here to learn about the resources available on campus,” Eng told the crowd as they found their seats, “…and how to connect our peers with those resources.”

Jose Miguel Rosillo, president of Miami Mindfulness, then gave a thought-provoking speech on the stigmas surrounding mental health issues, reminding the crowd that no one is immune from being stressed out, angry or depressed.

“To be human is to be thrown around by the weather of everything we cannot control,” he said.

A panel then answered a set of questions from the moderators and later from the crowd. The panel was comprised of Director of the Counseling Center Dr. Ernesto Escoto, Assistant Professor of Child Psychology Dr. Jennifer C. Britton, UMPD Crime Prevention Officer John Gulla, Director of Housing and Residential Life Chris Hartnett, and David DiDomenico of the Brogaard Laboratory for Multisensory Research.

The experts went over the steps for responding to a mental health crisis on campus, how to help a friend who may be suffering from an issue, and some of the reasons why college students are so susceptible to mental health problems.

Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor
Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor

Students were encouraged to sit at different tables from the people they in came with as they entered the ballroom, as two “work sessions” during the forum posed questions for discussion at the tables. One person at each table was encouraged to take notes on what their group thought so that the event’s hosts could receive feedback on the questions being asked of the crowd.

The difference in perceptions of bodily health and mental health was a common theme raised throughout the event. Students and the panel agreed that the stigmas surrounding someone who seeks treatment for mental health are a problem and no one should have to fear getting help. 

Hartnett explained that people wouldn’t be worried about getting judged for seeking treatment for a broken leg, so it shouldn’t be the case when seeking treatment for stress.

 “This is something that everyone goes through and everyone can go through,” senior Amber Martinez said. “Being able to realize that you shouldn’t judge someone who is going through this, it’s not a personality issue; it’s an environment issue, a genetic issue.”

She said students should know that help is available to be sought.

“It’s important to make people aware of the resources on campus because there’s nothing wrong with you if you choose to use the resources available on campus,” she said.

Eng hopes it will become an event that is held each semester on campus as there is always room for improvement when it comes to an issue as serious as mental health awareness.

“With every new incoming class and outgoing class, perceptions change, and so do the available practices and resources,” Eng said the day before the event. “With that, passions and interests also change, and forums like this each semester can help connect with other students as passionate about mental health.”