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Weber State University took steps to dispel the stigma that people who seek out and utilize mental health and psychological counseling are weak or mentally imbalanced by hosting a panel discussion on Thursday afternoon. The discussion was intended to help raise awareness and present an open and candid discussion about mental
health issues in the WSU community. The Center for Diversity and Unity sponsored the panel, Stomp Out the Stigma, along with the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at WSU.
Faculty, staff and students took seats in the Center for Diversity and Unity, Room 232 in the Shepherd Union Building, as panelists shared personal and professional experiences.
Dianna Abel, the director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center, said the center sees more than 900 students each year for individual counseling sessions. Abel also said that about 12 percent of the WSU population at any given time is taking some kind of psychotropic medication.
“We have a lot of students who are fearful that they can’t come in or they shouldn’t come in because they’re not crazy and only crazy people go to the counseling center,” Abel said. “What we’re doing is helping people deal with mental health issues, much like the Student Health Center helps students deal with a sore throat or a cough or whatever. Lots and lots of students are receiving services, are taking control of their mental health today, because now’s the time to do it as a young adult.”
Megan Gour, the Stop the Hate chair for the Center for Diversity and Unity and the WSU Student Association, said she and Abel planned and orchestrated the event together. Gour said she wanted to do the event because she feels it’s an important topic that needs to be addressed, and that raising awareness and promoting open discussion is beneficial to everyone in the WSU community.
“Education about mental health is something that can always be used,” Gour said.
The panel featured faculty, staff and students alike. Seven individuals sat on the panel, including Abel; Winn Stanger, the director for the WSU Career Services Center; Lauren Nelson, a psychology student, and Melinda Russell-Stamp, a psychology professor. Gour said it was good to have students, professors and mental health professionals involved because it brought different elements to the table.
“With the variety of the panel, we were able to see a lot of different sides and aspects of mental health issues,” Gour said.
Mary Beth Willard, an assistant professor in the philosophy department at WSU, also sat on the panel. Willard said Gour asked her to sit on the panel because of conversations they’ve had. Willard said students sometimes approach her, feeling overwhelmed and wanting someone to talk to. Willard said it happens maybe several times a semester.
“Students come in, and I’ll say, ‘You’re not the only one who’s been in my office needing a tissue because your life has gotten overwhelming; you’re not the first person who’s needed help.’ From my perspective, it’s just about getting healthy,” Willard said. “It’s not a sign of weakness or anything nuts like that.”
Willard said she was glad to sit on the panel because she thinks it’s an important to support mental health.
“I think a lot of students just don’t know where to go,” Willard said. “They feel a lot of stigma, or worry about the stigma, when they really shouldn’t.”
Students interested in counseling or assistance can set up appointments with the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at 801-626-6406 to learn more about options available to them.