ASCSU works toward improving student mental health

Sady Swanson

ascsuAssociated Students of Colorado State University have made it a goal this year to create programs to help better students’ mental health through programs and partnerships around campus.

ASCSU Director of Health Mackenzie Whitesell said she works with promoting student health and connecting students with resources.

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“We are really trying to amp up some of our mental health efforts this year,” Whitesell said. “And really creating a community of care where people feel like they are important and that they can be connected on campus.”

This year, ASCSU established a mental health committee within Whitesell’s position. The committee meets weekly and brainstorms ways to help improve student health on campus, and works to implement them.

The committee is working on planning a plaza event centered on mental health for later in the semester. They are also working on Body Acceptance Week, a program many groups on campus participate in during February.

Whitesell said one of the bigger projects the committee has worked on is a media and anti-stigma campaign, that will be released after spring break. The campaign focuses on removing the stigma from mental illness.

“We worked on it all fall … Getting feedback from the health network and from students,” Whitesell said. “It’s important to do that very carefully and very intentionally.”

Whitesell said the biggest part of the campaign is to humanize students that have mental health conditions.

“A lot of times people can be alienated … judged or discriminated against if they are dealing with something,” Whitesell said. “(The campaign will) help people see that people are more than their mental health conditions.”

Samantha Guinn, ASCSU president, said the goal of this campaign is to remove the negative connotation from mental illness to make it easier and more acceptable for students to ask help when they need it.

ASCSU Deputy Chief of Staff Lauren Wester is working with Whitesell on an excused absence policy.

“The proposed policy is going to create a uniform standard for students facing extenuating circumstances,” Wester wrote in an email to the Collegian.

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With this policy, students would document their situation with Case Management, and would have to make appropriate actions to make up classwork, Wester said.

There is no excused absence policy currently, but students can work with Case Management to handle excessive absences in extenuating circumstances.

The policy will be presented to the Committee on Teaching and Learning on Feb. 17 for formal evaluation. The appropriate steps will be taken from there, Wester said, but there is no timeline for when it will be enacted.

ASCSU began the Chronic Health Mentoring Program this year, which connects students dealing with chronic health conditions with peer mentors to help them feel more comfortable on campus.

Whitesell said mentees are welcome to join the program throughout the year, and she encourages students dealing with chronic mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, to join the program.

“A lot of times there’s a lot of overlap between mental and physical conditions that I think people don’t always see,” Whitesell said.

Whitesell said she also works with a group called Cam’s Crew, which promotes positive behavior around drinking habits and alcohol at sporting events.

Guinn said that the mental health committee has been working with the CSU Health Network to reach out to students and make sure students are aware of the resources CSU offers.

“We are always trying to be there for the students, and do whatever we can to make their experience the best it can be,” Guinn said.

Collegian City Beat Reporter Sady Swanson can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan.