‘Breaking the stigma: Mental health’ gets the community talking

Taylor McDaniel, Staff Reporter

The Oakland University Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), in collaboration with Women in Business, presented “Breaking the Stigma: Mental Health” on Tuesday, Nov. 19 as a way to have an open conversation about mental health with the OU community. 

The event was planned toward the end of November for a specific reason, according to Nancy Savage, special instructor in the School of Business Administration. As the semester winds down, the workload piles up with exams and presentations, and students can use the tools and resources given at the presentation during this hectic time. 

Prior to the event beginning, tables were set up toward the back, featuring representatives available to answer questions and address concerns and comments. Olivia Nash, coordinator for the School of Education and Human Services (SEHS) Counseling Center; peer wellness ambassadors from the Recreation Center; and Dr. Caitlin Demsky, assistant professor of management in the School of Business Administration, all were available to participants. 

Dr. Melodie Kondratek, associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health Sciences, spoke on mental health first aid, a way to recognize mental health symptoms in others and how to offer help to those who are having difficulty coping. She emphasized the fact that this aid is not a replacement for licensed practitioners. 

“[Mental health first aid] is given until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis is resolved,” Kondratek said. 

Kondratek got her start in mental health while practicing physical therapy and eventually began to wonder what she could do to help those whose hardships were beyond torn muscles and broken bones. Her zeal led her to become trained as a mental health first aid instructor. 

“I am passionate about decreasing the stigma of mental health issues across the U.S., and bringing hope to people who are struggling,” she said.

Kondratek discussed in detail the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety, which are very common in college students. In fact, 1 in 5 college students experience anxiety or depression, possibly because many students work or attend internships while going to school and are managing a lot of stress, pressure and expectations all at once, according to Savage and Kondratek. 

“[Today’s event] shows that it’s OK if you’re struggling,” Mary Goro, SHRM director of community relations said. “There are resources available [on campus] for students.” 

A list of campus resources were given as handouts at the event. 

ALGEE, a mental health first aid action plan, was presented by Kondratek. The plan can be used by those trained, standing for: Access for risk of suicide or harm; Listen nonjudgmentally; Give reassurance; Encourage appropriate professional help; Encourage self-help and other support strategies. 

Slido, an audience interaction app, was utilized during the presentation to give the audience the chance to ask anonymous questions without interrupting, especially given the sensitive and potentially personal subject matter of the event. Kondratek answered a number of the audience’s questions, read by SHRM President Omar Salih, toward the end of the evening, wrapping up leftover comments and concerns about mental health. 

During the Q&A, Kondratek emphasized the fact that listening is one of the most important things a person can do to support someone in a time of need. 

“Don’t we all just want to be noticed?” she asked the audience, closing out the evening, but not the imperative conversation of mental health at OU. 

A list of campus resources for those who are struggling with mental health issues can be found on OU’s website. If you are not on campus, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 or contacting 911. 

Those interested in joining SHRM at OU can contact Salih at [email protected]