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Friday, September 18, 2020

Campus

Shine a Light event highlights mental health resources


Students struggle more through the spring semester, and are more affected by issues such as depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders, said College of Pharmacy clinical assistant professor Austin De La Cruz. | Photo courtesy of Student Wellness Advisory Council and the College of Pharmacy

Students struggle more through the spring semester, and are more affected by issues such as depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders, said College of Pharmacy clinical assistant professor Austin De La Cruz. | Photo courtesy of Student Wellness Advisory Council and the College of Pharmacy

The Shine a Light on Mental Health fair was hosted by the College of Pharmacy on Wednesday. The fair featured multiple groups, all promoting various forms of mental health awareness. 

Aimed towards both undergraduate and graduate students, the event provided mental health resources and educational techniques for interested students. 

“I think it was a really great turnout,” said College of Pharmacy clinical assistant professor Austin De La Cruz. “We had not only a lot of undergraduates, but graduates and individuals from the College of Pharmacy who are interested in learning more about mental health.” 

A variety of organizations attended, specializing in topics ranging from depression and suicide to eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

“In my family, we have a few people with mental health illnesses,” said third-year pharmacy student Dieu Dao. “I’m glad I had the chance to talk to (representatives from these organizations) face-to-face and get more information about the available options in case I, or someone I know, needs something.” 

The fair included some on-campus mental health awareness groups and invited multiple Houston-area off-campus organizations, such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Alliance of Mental Illness and the Sun Behavioral Center of Houston. 

“I feel like a lot of times students may be apprehensive to approach individuals that they know within their own college, and so oftentimes that’s where it can be helpful for them to know what are some other resources to turn to, and other organizations that may be supporting them through a certain time,” De La Cruz said.  

The fair was promoted by the Student Wellness Advisory Council, a new committee created by the College of Pharmacy. 

“Our main goal at the Student Wellness Advisory Council is to promote wellness, educate students about mental health, and also provide them with overall healthy interventions to help improve their mental wellness as they’re going through the College of Pharmacy curriculum,” De La Cruz said. “Hopefully we can make this a yearly thing for the College of Pharmacy as a big health fair.”

The UH Student Health Center participated, which most recently brought two full-time psychiatrists to help serve students. With no insurance requirement, the psychiatry clinic offers initial evaluations for $40.  

“We charge a nominal amount for a new appointment,” said chief psychiatrist at student health center, Cheryl Person. “Within the community, this is like the cheapest way I have ever heard of. A follow-up appointment is only $20.” 

Some of the other booths included the Wellness Center at the Recreation Center, CAPS representatives, the LGBTQ Resource Center and pharmacy students with special initiatives towards certain mental health issues.  The booths provided students with knowledge on a variety of mental health disorders and how to correctly combat them while in school.

“This is our second semester, but one of the things that we wanted to do is really target (mental health awareness) here in the spring because what we’ve seen through our surveys is students actually struggle more through the spring semester, and are more affected by issues such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders,” De La Cruz said. 

Students participating in the fair were able to interact with the attendees through their organizations’ booths.

“We’re pretty happy with the turnout, especially because we couldn’t have it at Lynn Eusan Park,” said third-year pharmacy student Elizabeth Tirawan. “Even though it was murky, people still came by, and I definitely learned a lot.”

Some students promote CAPS as an accessible mental health resource on campus.

“I always recommend CAPS, which they mention to us a lot in our pharmacy program,” said third-year pharmacy student Kasaandra Ibanez.  “It’s a really nice resource to have, and just to be able to have someone to talk to one-on-one. They take walk-ins as well, so you don’t make the appointment.”

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