Contact: Erin Flynn
KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Broncos are uprising. That’s the message from the Western Student Association (WSA) and the Graduate Student Association (GSA) as they team up for Mental Health Week.
“This pandemic has taken so much away from communities,” says Matt Carl, director of outreach for the GSA. “I think this mental health week can really be the spark that ignites the sense of community at Western that we’ve always had and really kick-start it.”
“The Broncos are really taking the lead, and we’re agents of change. But we also really care about the students; we care about our faculty, our staff, our guests,” adds Charles Poole III, WSA Vice President for Community Engagement. “You can walk down Sangren Plaza and people will just say ‘Hi’ or smile at you. You literally get a welcoming feeling everywhere you go. And I think Mental Health Week is really focused on that.”
From cuddling with therapy dogs and dancing with friends at Zumba to professional panel discussions, a number of events are planned for the week, which unfolds Monday april 4thby friday april 8. The full schedule of events for the week is available online. The aim is to help students relax, lift their spirits and break the stigma surrounding mental health.
“Especially in the past two years, students’ mental health has declined; isolation has increased, which often leads to feelings of depression and anxiety,” says Carl, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work specializing in clinical therapy. “The support we can provide as student government is incredibly important, and I think this week shines a light on the importance of mental health and what students can do to support other students.”
It’s important, says Poole, that students understand that they don’t have to go through anything alone.
“I think it comes down to the societal pressures of what we see on social media, what we see with cyberbullying, what we see in politics. It all ties into why students might not not feel comfortable or feel like they have the power to really speak up and get the help they deserve,” he says. “I think the fact that students are taking the lead in this topic and show that it’s okay and remove those stigmas, it really breaks down that barrier.”
Wellness is a priority at the University, which strives to holistically support students throughout their academic journey and equip them with the tools they need for a life well lived. At All Western, students have access to WellTrack, a self-help app with a number of tools and resources aimed at managing mental health, as well as YOU at Western, a holistic well-focused web-based platform. being and supporting all aspects of the student experience. WSA and GSA hope to publicize all of the resources available to students long after Mental Health Week ends.
“If a large institution like Western is able to support students and see that as a very prevalent issue, that sets a precedent for other universities, other institutions across the country,” Poole said. “We just did a student government conference (along with other institutions) and one of the topics was mental health. We were one of the few institutions, if not the only one, to really do something like this.”
“There are so many different resources in our community. If we can condense them and put them into one area in an accessible way so that students can see and understand the resources at their fingertips, that lowers the barrier to care,” adds Carl.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.