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Student Government Association senator to hold forum on mental health

In an article titled “The College Student Mental Health Crisis,” Psychology Today explores how today’s population is facing more stress than that of any other point in American history.

Anxiety and depression ranked at the top of the list of mental health issues, with the website describing how those trends have increased within students over the past few years. A 2013 survey revealed approximately half of male and female college students felt immense amounts of anxiety.

Due to the importance of mental health, Student Government Association Senator Kelechi Onyeaghala, a junior studying biological sciences, explains that her goal is to create a forum near the end of this semester to “increase awareness of mental health in underrepresented minority communities.”

Senator Onyeaghala, who was elected at the beginning of the semester, became interested in the idea after talking to friends who disclosed that they felt uncomfortable discussing their mental disabilities with others, as people would not understand them.

“A lot of times, when it comes to immigrant families, for example, mental health is usually shunned upon. The same can be true with someone from a religious family.” With the upcoming forum, a space can be created where UMBC students can feel comfortable.

Onyeaghala desires to specialize in the minority factor of this dialogue, stemming from the fact that society focuses on middle-upper class Caucasian women and their mental health.

“That doesn’t leave much space for other groups—including men, as it is not seen as acceptable for them to admit their struggles for the fear of being seen as weak.”

The SGA Senator mentions that while research has shown that women are more likely to develop mental health issues, it is nevertheless crucial for men to openly join the discussion, or else the stigma of hyper-masculinity will continue. 

“I want to focus on anxiety, depression and stress, as I feel that students can identify with those things the most,” she said regarding the issues she is planning to present at the dialogue. 

Although Onyeaghala is planning on hosting the dialogue for mental health in May (which is also Mental Health Awareness Month) she is already ensuring that people will be on the panel, including professors and counselors at UMBC.

Experts will also be on the panel from an organization called The Steve Fund, which aims to improve the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color. Overall, she is piecing together a diverse panel in order to make students feel comfortable. 

The biological sciences major is ensuring that all of campus will be involved in this conversation by reaching out to other student organizations on campus to continue the dialogue even when the event ends.

Onyeaghala’s passion for raising awareness about mental health in looked-over populations is driving her to ensure that this panel will give UMBC community members a voice to speak and share about issues that they face daily. 

She hopes that, by campus organizations becoming involved in this discussion, students will be able to express what they are going through without the fear of others judging them.