The Student Government Association and the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) teamed up Thursday in Rooker Hall to host the University of Georgia’s first Mental Wellness Summit.
The purpose of the summit was to bring UGA student leaders together to discuss ways to better address mental wellness and introduce them to the mental health resources that the campus already has to offer.
“The Mental Wellness Summit serves as a platform for everyone wanting to improve mental health,” said Maddie Jones, senior public relations major and member of SHAC from Marietta. “It’s important that students and the university are taking interest in something so prevalent.”
Organizations such as Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), the ASPIRE Clinic, the Center for Teaching and Learning, Student Care and Outreach, the University Health Center and The Fontaine Center attended the summit, providing students with information about their services.
“One of the biggest things with mental wellness is that students often don’t know when or where to find the resources that can help them,” said Aliya Abdulla, member of SHAC and third-year psychology major from Lilburn.
In addition to their clinics and counseling services, UHC also offers free wellness and prevention programs like stress and anxiety workshops, yoga for stress relief and WatchDawgs: Bystander Intervention workshops.
Students involved with SGA and SHAC hope to raise awareness around the health center’s resources for anyone who experiences issues related to mental health.
“Many of our students struggle with stress, depression, anxiety and mental wellness issues,” said Cameron Keen, SGA president. “And when one student at UGA is struggling, it impacts our entire community. That’s why it is so important for all of us to partner together in making sure each student is cared for.”
SGA has already begun taking one step toward making UHC resources more accessible to students by working on new features for the UGA mobile app.
These features will include the ability to schedule a health center appointment, 24-hour emergency services for mental wellness and sexual assault and more. These features are expected to be added to the app in the next two months.
Dr. Ash Thompson, director of CAPS, also spoke to the summit. He spent time highlighting the increase in mental health issues at UGA and the increase in demand for their services.
“In 2009, we had around 1,600 students come in for a first-time screening. It has gradually increased, and in 2016, we saw over 2,000 students for first-time screenings,” Thompson said.
Thompson also said that many students struggle with issues related to stress, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness which can affect a student socially, personally, and even academically.
With such a large campus, participants in the summit encouraged other UGA student leaders to continue to spread awareness about the university’s mental health resources.
“The health center does it best advertising and being present in front of the student body, but our voice doesn’t always get carried along,” Abdulla said. “That’s why it’s very important for student leaders to become ambassadors and a voice for the students that don’t know about these resources.”
Becca Pannek, president of UGA’s Panhellenic sorority council, along with other student leaders, expressed her support and enthusiasm for the event.
“I think it’s great that SGA and SHAC are taking initiative to educate different organizations on mental wellness,” Pannek said. “The entire campus can benefit from this effort.”