By: Anna Toth
Cleveland State Univeristy Health and Wellness hosted the Alive! Mental Health Fair on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Held in the Student Center, the fair is sponsored by IMAlive, an online crisis network.
Planning to bring the Mental Health Fair to Cleveland State’s campus started back in September 2017 after finding out about the college programs run through IMAlive.
“We know that there’s a stigma around mental health, and we want to reduce that stigma … and teach people how to help those who might be in distress,” Health and Wellness Coordinator Denise Keary said.
The event included stress reducing activities like coloring and a board where students could anonymously post their struggles on sticky notes. In addition, there was a Graffiti Art Exhibit where students could write inspirational messages to other members of the campus community.
According to their website, the Alive! Mental Health Fair is an interactive and educational suicide prevention program that has visited over 40 college campuses since it’s conception in 2010. Through this, students can recognize the warning signs of suicide and learn how to have difficult conversations that can potentially save a life.
As part of the education program there are documentaries about suicide at different stages of life. There’s also Question Persuade and Refer (QRP) training sessions that students and faculty could attend to better understand how try and help a person with suicidal thoughts. “QRP training teaches people about some of the myths around suicide and teaches them how to ask the question, ‘Are you going to kill yourself’ and talk them through that feeling,” Keary said.
There were also tables promoting on campus resources for mental health. Tables included the Counseling Center, which utilizes professional counselors, and the Counseling and Academic Success Center which helps students with stress and time management as well as other personal issues.
In addition, there are student organizations that are devoted to improving student mental health, like NAMI, Active Minds and the Helping You Though Peer Education program (HYPE).
Rebecca Krenz, president of the HYPE team, was there along with other agencies like the LGBTQ+ Center and the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center to help educate students on where to go if they need help.
“We’re just talking about mental health awareness and where to access resources on campus,” Krenz said.
Krenz acknowledges the challenges in receiving mental health services, especially when combining the financial aspect with the social stigmas that come from getting help. But there are free resources around campus for students to take advantage of as long as they are willing to seek it.
“It’s okay to get help. It’s okay to talk about it, and we’re here to support one another,” Krenz said.
While mental health is a topic that can be hard to talk about, the Cleveland State community had an active presence in the Alive! Mental Health Fair. According to Keary just under 200 people attended the event, and 12 people went through the QRP training.
Between the participation in the Alive! Mental Health Fair and the comments on the graffiti board, Keary was encouraged by how supportive the Cleveland State campus is of each other.
“The support on campus for one another is really well beyond what I thought I’d be seeing,” Keary said. “We are really trying to say that we do care, and this campus showed it.”