Help end the stigma surrounding mental health

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courtesy of WXYZ

Elissa Keller wants to share her story so others with mental health issues might not feel so alone.

Katerina Mihailidis, Staff Reporter

This past weekend, the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services broadcast a documentary titled “Opening Minds, Ending Stigma: Campus Challenges.” The film addressed the stigma surrounding mental health issues and illnesses and how to end it.

The documentary featured Oakland University’s student organizations Actively Moving Forward and Active Minds. Both groups played a significant role in offering a safe-haven to students experiencing mental illnesses: a place to turn to when they’re going through their mental health issues.

Students from both OU and Wayne State University shared their personal stories and experiences regarding their mental health struggles.

They discussed the prevalence of mental health issues that today’s youth faces, issues that intensify and heighten as the young individuals transition from high school to college.

According to Alex Currington, president of Actively Moving Forward at OU, young adults statistically first realize that they have mental health issues once they get on college campuses.

“There’s a need for more critical conversation on mental health to be had on college campuses.” Currington said. “Sometimes we underestimate just how common it is for mental health concerns to rise up during the stress of college life,”.

Several people that have lost children from suicide caused by mental health issues spoke in the documentary and stressed the severity of finding help for the young adults struggling with mental disorders.

In the documentary it was also stated that “the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, The Ethel and James Flinn Foundation, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan are all partnering to support a cohort of 13 Michigan universities and colleges to participate in the Jed campus program to improve student mental health and suicide prevention efforts.”

Elissa Keller, who studies psychology, said that “mental illness is something that affects your ability to live, laugh and love.”

She was inspired to participate in the documentary by her story and by the story of her friends that didn’t receive the right help in the past, she said. Going through multiple disorders and issues herself, Keller shared her story so other people can know that they’re not alone.

Keller is looking to join OU’s organization Active Minds so she can be there for students that need help.

“There are resources at their local campuses, in their community or even nationally for them to reach out to,” Currington said.

“[Mental illness] is something that can’t be seen outwardly,” said Tia Mullins, treasurer and social media manager of Actively Moving Forward at OU, who also participated in the documentary and discussed her experiences and encounters with friends and family who have had suicidal thoughts.

Mullins became a member of AMF, because she believed in everything they stood for.

“If I can help save someone then I’m doing my part,” Mullins said.

The documentary was broadcast on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 pm. on WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids and Sunday Sept. 24 at 11:30 am. on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. The documentary can be accessed without charge use at www.endingstigma.org.