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Utah State University begins first ‘Mental Health is No Joke’ week

By Kelsey Schwab
Healthy Aggies

Sheree Haggan believes HOPE is a four-letter acronym that has the potential to save lives.

“HOPE stands for healing, openness, perseverance and empowerment,” said Haggan, Utah State University’s multicultural program coordinator.

Inspired by that idea, Utah State University is hosting its first annual “Mental Health is No Joke” week beginning on Tuesday. The event includes a keynote speaker, a workshop series and a mental health fair.

Alexis Jones, the founder and CEO of the international organization I Am That Girl, will kick off the event in the Taggart Student Center Ballroom with a keynote presentation entitled “#BeBrave: dreams, love and living radically.”

Utah State’s chapter of I Am That Girl worked with the Center for Women and Gender to bring Jones to USU. The workshop series will be held Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in room 101 of the Merrill-Cazier Library.

Each workshop in the series is 20 minutes long and will cover various topics such as suicide, impulsiveness, stress management and mindfulness. They are designed to provide individuals with different tools to cope with mental health or help others cope.

“Talking about mental health is hard and the stigma associated with the term is not a positive one, but it is definitely something that needs to be addressed,” said Evelyn Hernandez, a member of USU’s I Am That Girl team. “Mental Health is usually kept on the down low. It’s important to know that mental health does not define us, but is a problem that comes along for the ride at times.”

To end the week there will be a mental health fair on Thursday. Many USU departments will be participating, including the Marriage and Family Therapy Department, multicultural clubs from the Access and Diversity Center, the USU Community Clinic, SAAVI and USU Counseling and Psychological services.

There will also be several organizations from the community including Bear River Health, CAPSA, Logan Regional and Quality Youth Services in attendance.

“The purpose of the fair is to show students the type of resources available for someone that may be struggling with mental health or even on how to help someone that may be struggling with it,” Hernandez said.

Ty Aller, a graduate student in the Marriage & Family Therapy program, said the inspiration for the event came through his experience of losing a close friend to suicide.

“I have now taken on the responsibility to work with my peers to increase sensitivity and awareness of mental health issues,” Aller said. “The event is the beginning of a long career of helping those around me live a beautiful life.”

The week’s theme of healing, openness, perseverance and empowerment is predicted to bring more hope to USU in future years.

“We already have departments willing to collaborate in the future to help fund annual mental health-themed event weeks,” Haggan said. “This is the beginning of something much bigger.”

More information about the events can be found at http://www.usu.edu/calendar/event.cfm?eventID=12511&day=31&show=today&year=2015&month=3.