Coming together for student mental health

Coming together for student mental health

Speakers shared their stories at the Mental Health Awareness Panel

Students and faculty came together in the library’s gallery to hear four individuals share their challenges with mental health and their roads to recovery.

Many students would agree that juggling a full course load and responsibilities outside of school is not always easy. Still, students aren’t the only ones who face obstacles involving their mental health, as these issues are overwhelmly common in today’s society.

This month is Mental Health Awareness month and the Mental Health Awareness Panel was hosted in the library’s gallery on May 6. Student and alumni speakers shared their stories involving their struggles with mental health, as well as some advice on how to approach and overcome mental health issues inside and outside of school.

Dr. Jason Schiffman, associate professor and director of clinical training, said, “The goal of this panel is to bring people together to discuss issues related to mental health that include both challenges and sources of strength and hope.” Youth First (Youth Focused Identification, Research, and Service Team) has been established and is comprised of Schiffman and his research lab of graduate and undergraduate students.

Youth First was one of several sponsors of the panel, who produce meaningful and useful research in order to better provide clinical services. Their research lab is located right on campus, where they are also training future leaders in psychology.

The team with Youth First primarily focuses on creating mental health programs which provide education and awareness to their community. They have trained student consumer speakers, organized campus flashmobs and hosted awareness panels, such as this one.

Jordan Geddes, a UMBC alumnus and speaker at the event, said, “I spoke on the first panel we did two years ago as well. It’s a chance for students and former students to share their experiences with mental health in an honest and open way.” Geddes shared his experiences with being bullied and struggling with depression. It has been a long road to recovery, but he feels like he has finally made it to a better place.

Today, Geddes is the Youth Engagement Supervisor for the Maryland Coalition of Families, and helps run the youth advisory council, Taking Flight. Taking Flight is a diverse group of young leaders from different backgrounds who fight to make positive changes, such as promoting acceptance and reducing stigma.

Every single one of the speakers admitted that seeking help was daunting at first, but committing to it made all the difference. Many people are afraid to share what they’re going through out of the fear of being judged, but it’s important to remember that there’s someone out there who understands and is dedicated to helping those who suffer with mental health illnesses.

Sayeda Khan, a senior biology major and speaker, said, “this was my first time sharing my full story. It felt great. I remember feeling so alone, but I realized you don’t have to go through these issues alone. There’s always someone who’s willing to listen and help.” Khan stressed how she has people who are there for her even when she doesn’t want to talk, and  they have really made the fight worth fighting for.