EMU graduate encourages students struggling with mental health issues to seek help

YPSILANTI, Mich. (WXYZ) — As we all continue to grapple with the school shootings in Uvalde, Texas and at Oxford High School, there is growing talk of mental illness.

For many young people, college can be the time when mental health issues first surface.

7 Action News spoke to a recent Eastern Michigan University graduate who said that without help on campus, she likely wouldn’t have her degree or her life.

Before putting on her cap and gown as an EMU graduate in 2022, Sheree Braswell thought that day might never come.

“Last year in 2021 was a year filled with grief, stress, anxiety and depression,” Braswell said.

Braswell had many loved ones die, including her grandmother, and her therapist was abruptly cut off due to insurance issues, which heightened her anxiety.

“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “I checked into a psychiatric hospital in Livonia at St. Mary’s (hospital). I learned a lot about myself. »

She learned that asking for help was a form of self-care.

“It was getting to the point where the thoughts were getting more vivid and I was working and telling my parents I had to check in,” Braswell said.

Her cousin was also a big part of her support network, which is why she wears a T-shirt that says “Check strong friends.”

“She was always checking up on me even in her busy schedule,” Braswell said of her cousin.

“I was just an ear for her,” Braswell’s cousin Cassandra Sylvers said. “(I told him) If you need to go to an institution, I will walk with you and I will be with you.”

But her university experience at EMU is what made her so strong. When she lost her therapist, one of her professors at EMU recommended CAPS, which stands for Counseling and Psychological Services Offered on Campus. It has been around for decades, but there are many new programs.

Sheree blogged about it and is now a mental health advocate.

“During this process, I was able to say hi — to other people — using CAPS at your local college,” Braswell said.

According to a study by the Health Minds Network, university is a key period of development and 75% of mental health problems in life will appear before the age of 24.

Between 2013 and 2021, they surveyed 350,000 students on more than 300 campuses. They found a 135% increase in depression and a 110% increase in anxiety.

Ellen Gold is Dean of Students at EMU and Senior Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. She says Eastern offers free short-term therapy to students and has a part-time psychiatrist on staff. She says many students have struggled, especially during the COVID-19 isolation.

To help UEM develop a program called Housecall, where every two days individuals call students and check that they are not feeling alone.

Gold says EMU focuses on mental well-being. They have training for students and faculty on how to spot a distressed student and how to approach them.

“All of the work we do is driven by our quest to save lives,” Gold said.

Sheree, who is not typical in her approach, stands out as a model. Her willingness to talk openly about her mental health issues won her the Stress Let’s Talk About It Youth Award for breaking the stigma of mental illness in the black community. She is now a beacon of courage for so many others to know that it is OK to speak up and ask for help.

If you or someone you know is looking for help, you can call Michigan Stay Well Counseling at 1-888-535-6136 or Michigan Warmline at 1-888-PEER-753.

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