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Pharmacy organizations to enhance mental health awareness in Mental Health Week

Mental Health Week begins with a health fair on Monday, April 4 from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. in the Mac Activities room of Ohio Northern University's McIntosh Center. (photo/sovhealth.com)

Mental Health Week begins with a health fair on Monday, April 4 from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. in the Mac Activities room of Ohio Northern University's McIntosh Center. (photo/sovhealth.com)

While Ohio Northern University promotes mental health awareness throughout each academic year, several of the institution’s pharmacy student organizations are planning a series of special events next week to draw further attention to healthy lifestyles.

Kappa Epsilon, Rho Chi, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists [CPNP], Academy of Student Pharmacists [APhA-ASP], Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists [SSHP] and Student National Pharmaceutical Association [SNPhA] will make ONU students aware of mental health issues, beginning on Monday, April 4 with a health fair in the Mac Activities room of the McIntosh Center.

The health fair, from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., will include many information tables on such mental illness issues as drug addiction, stress, depression, and anxiety – all student-related issues. ONU’s counseling and health centers also will be present at the fair.

Students are being encouraged to speak to peer counselors and other mental health officials at the fair to better understand the signs and symptoms of someone who is struggling with mental health illnesses.

Friends help friends when they need emotional support the most. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI], however, it is difficult to determine when someone needs help because it is so easy to hide mental illness behind a smile.

Then, on Wednesday, April 6, a speaker from NAMI will discuss a special experience with a mental illness. This speaker will provide tips on how friends could help each other with stress, depression, or other forms of mental illness. This event is scheduled at 5 p.m. in the Dicke Forum on the ONU campus.

It’s always important to help each other before it is too late, as some research suggests that 94-percent of college students will feel overwhelmed at some point in their college careers, says Dr. Michael Schafer, clinical psychologist and director of counseling for ONU’s Counseling Center.  

“A healthy and well-functioning university requires a healthy and well-functioning student body. At ONU, the Counseling Center serves approximately nine percent of the student population each year. Keep in mind these are just the number of people being seen in individual therapy. Many more students are affected by mental health issues when it is a close friend, teammate or roommate who is suffering,” Schafer adds.

Depression is the largest mental illness affecting college students, and ONU students aim to demonstrate to others that this is a mutual feeling that can be helped.

“The first task [to eliminating mental illnesses] is to accept that stress is a reality of college life and as such it is not unusual nor does it have to be something that is debilitating. We all feel these experiences, but we don’t have to be controlled by it,” Schafer explains.

ONU’s Mental Health Week promises to show students the various coping mechanisms to dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.

The weeklong events will conclude with a special Light Up the Night Walk on Saturday, April 9, starting at 7 p.m. by the mud volleyball courts on campus. The event will feature glow-in-the-dark balloons which will have the name of someone participants know is affected by mental illnesses. This signifies that each walker is marching for their friends. Walkers will release the balloons in unison at the end of the walk, hoping to signify the release of mental stress. Students can register to participate at link. Monetary donations will be accepted, with all proceeds supporting the NAMI Hope Alliance chapter in Lima, Ohio.

A Mental Health Week Hashtag Challenge (#breakthestaminaONU) will allow students to highlight mental health issues throughout next week on social media -- through tweets, posting pictures on Instagram or Facebook postings.

Students participating in the Hashtag Challenge will be eligible to win a gift card.

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses to decrease the chances of suicide on a college campus. Mental Health Week aims to highlight this public health issue to students, hoping to prevent suicide from happening on the ONU campus in the future.

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