Groups work to raise awareness of mental health on campus

By Kate Szyszka

Jordan Nott was a straight-A student at George Washington University in fall 2004.

Faced with problems related to mental illness, he sought emergency psychiatric care and was soon hospitalized.

Upon hearing of his hospitalization, George Washington University officials charged Nott with violating school code of conduct. The school suspended Nott and removed privileges to his dorm and threatened to arrest him if he set foot on campus.

Court battles such as these are the reason that mental health has become a more prevalent topic of interest on college campuses. A guide for students called, “Campus Mental Health: Know Your Rights!” was recently produced by the Leadership 21 committee of the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington D.C.

“The Leadership 21 committee had wanted to do something about rights of students on campuses,” said Lee Carty, publications director for Bazelon. “We also had started getting all these calls from attorneys and students who had been kicked out of their schools.”

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    The decision to publish this guide was the result of the lawsuits and the committee, said Carty.

    “Students are often nervous about seeking mental health treatment because they fear consequences with the university,” Carty said.

    However, at the University of Illinois, students are encouraged to partake in the services offered through student affairs, such as The Counseling Center and McKinley Health Center.

    “We hope that students realize they can just call The Counseling Center,” said Renee Romano, vice chancellor of Student Affairs. “They can follow up in a way that is best suited for those involved.”

    Students pay for the services offered at McKinley and The Counseling Center through the student health fee.

    “It’s available to them, and they are paying for it,” said Romano. “They should just take advantage of it.”

    Another organization involved in helping students with issues related to mental health is the Active Minds group.

    “Our goal is to change the conversation of mental health on campus,” said Alison Malmon, executive director of Active Minds. “We want mental illnesses to be treated the same as physical illnesses.”

    Active Minds has chapters on more than 150 campuses.

    The groups plan events such as panel discussions, benefit runs and movie screenings.

    “The groups are comprised of students with mental illnesses, students who have friends with mental illnesses and students who are psychology majors and are interested in mental illnesses,” said Malmon. “It is basically comprised of students who have a story related to mental illnesses.”

    According to Malmon, the University has an Active Minds chapter that registered last fall; however, they have not hosted any events yet.

    After the shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, awareness of mental health on college campuses has increased.

    “The emergency dean is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, if there is any concern about students you can call and follow up,” said Romano. “After Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois, we made sure the information was out to faculty and staff.”