Moving out mental health advocacy

By Amanda Tonoli


Four Youngstown State University graduate students are preparing to travel cross country to give a mental health advocacy presentation to the American Counseling Association Conference and Expo in San Francisco in March.

“I’m excited to see what other universities can do to put their own twist on it, to implement it in their environments,” said Emily Jumper, graduate student.

Fellow graduate student Jerrilyn Guy explained the need for the project stemmed from Ohio House Bill 28.

“All colleges and universities are required to do a suicide prevention course throughout the campus community,” she said. “We began looking at the piece, taking steps and got the ball rolling on training and made it so others can replicate [the process].”

Part of the presentation is an easy-to-replicate poster highlighting the need for suicide prevention training, the need for mental health education, warning signs those with suicidal ideation and statistics showing the commonality of mental health issues on college campuses.

“In preparing [the session} we learned the prevalence rate [of suicide] is huge on college campuses, and the campuses don’t speak about it because it’s such a hush-hush topic,” Jumper said.

Jake Protivnak, associate professor and chairman of counseling, special education and school psychology, said suicide is the leading cause of death for individuals between age 18 and 25, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

An aspect that sticks out to Protivnak for the presentation is spreading ownership of the serious problem of suicide to more than just designated counselors.

“What was communicated by the students is that being aware of mental health issues and struggles are a responsibility of everyone – not just designated counsel on campus,” he said.

Jumper said she enjoyed being able to educate students who don’t have psychology or counseling backgrounds to enable them to join the fight against suicide.

“The important part is just getting the message out there and hopefully making a difference,” said graduate student Rachel Soroka.

“And to get people talking,” added Jumper.

Matthew Paylo, associate professor of counseling, special education and school psychology, said he was amazed by the students’ drives to take ownership for the project and profession, rather than waiting to have the faculty take leadership.

“It shows they are growing professionally with energy and passion,” he said.

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