Eliminate the stigma of mental illness
➜ Middle school is a critical developmental time for young adults. It is a period of important milestones that can also be deeply stressful. Studies show that anxiety and depression are on the rise among college students and that suicide remains the leading cause of death on campus. Seventy-five percent of mental health problems develop before the age of 24.
Understanding the importance of student mental health, Morgan State University partnered with NAMI Metro four years ago to create campus-wide programs aimed at destigmatizing mental illness and promoting wellness. . As part of this commitment, Morgan participates in NAMI Metro’s “I Will Listen” program, a week-long campaign to engage students in a conversation about mental health.The 2021 initiative included a chapel service, an open mic night, and a final “headphone-free day” where everyone on campus was encouraged to wear “I Will Listen” t-shirts.
“We tell our students that we are here to listen and share your concerns,” says Danny Molock, PhD, acting coordinator for student life and development.
The pandemic makes this work more relevant than ever, says David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University.
“Covid has exacerbated the normal mental and psychological challenges that we see on our campus, like on college campuses across the country,” he says. “But that’s further exacerbated here at Morgan because so many of our students come from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid.”
Wilson created a mental health task force to engage all aspects of the university in support of mental health. The university is proactive in its programs, bringing therapy pets to campus at exam time, sponsoring outdoor “Yoga on the Yard”, to promote relaxation, physical well-being and a sense of community, and offering screening for depression.
Crucially, Wilson led by example by having the counseling center deliver a presentation on self-care and stress management to the university’s leadership team during the worst of the pandemic shutdown.
“It’s important for us as leaders to model that and we realize that we, too, need to take care of ourselves,” Wilson says.
Morgan’s “I Will Listen” week drew record attendance in 2021. Molock says they are expanding their collaborations with NAMI Metro, including a walk for mental health in the spring.
“This generation of students is more willing to share and more willing to listen,” he continues. “They want to be advocates for each other.”