Print This Article
Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy
Mental Health and Wellness: Building a Better Tomorrow
by Irum Khan, PS-4; ICHP President; Midwestern Universty Chicago College of Pharmacy
According to the Active Minds Foundation, 39% of students in college experience a significant mental health issue, and two thirds of students with anxiety or depression do not seek treatment.1 Since mental health is an essential component of a strong emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, our chapter here at Midwestern University strives to create more events geared towards advocating for mental health. It is important to break the stigma of mental health issues and provide students with the resources to help others and provide tips to stay positive and prevent these issues from occurring. To help with this cause, our chapter partnered with the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) to provide a “Mental Health First Aid” session that introduces participants to vital risk factors and warning signs of mental health struggles. This session prepares students to interact with a patient in crisis and connect them with the most appropriate help.
During the 8-hour Mental Health First Aid session, students were trained to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness. This course spells out a clear, five-step action plan to help individuals in crisis connect with the right professionals and peers. This type of support network provides the best chance to avert mental health crises and connect those in need to key resources, opening the door to a positive change. In addition, this training session builds an understanding of the impact we can make and dives into appropriate support. Participants are taught to recognize if a close friend, family member, or colleague is struggling and aid in communication to make positive changes and respond with appropriate empathy. In addition to recognizing mental illness, the session also helps participants recognize substance use disorder.
Upon completing the training session, students were awarded a Mental Health First Aid Training Certification from NAMI. The training certification is a nationally recognized certification, and students will be able to implement what they gained from the session in their communities. The 35 students that participated in the NAMI Mental Health First Aid session stated that they appreciated ICHP for shining a light on mental health issues. This session made students feel empowered and trained to turn a dark situation into a positive one. By adopting these types of programs, we can change procedures, break stigmas, and impact the community in an effective way.
Our chapter plans to continue adding more events focusing on health and wellness. Currently, we are planning to conduct a “Burnout Panel”. Burnout is a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Feeling burnt out can cause harmful mental effects and hinder academic ability. This panel will consist of current pharmacy residents, and the event will start by each panelist talking about their own experiences with burnout in their respective programs. Then, panelists will answer questions we have prepared pertaining to dealing with burnout, and tips to avoid burnout. After, we plan to open it up to the student audience for a Q&A session. Our chapter aims to teach students tips on how to prevent feeling overwhelmed and to show students how to handle situations when they feel their mental health is compromised.
It is important for organizations to not only help students grow professionally but also to help them grow mentally. Chapters can contact programs like NAMI and brainstorm other events to advocate for mental health in their own communities. The more wellness is talked about the more our peers will feel comfortable seeking help. As Michelle Obama once said, “At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.”2 ■
- Active Minds. Statistics. https://www.activeminds.org/about-mental-health/statistics/ (accessed 2020 Mar 25).
- Obama White House. Speeches and Remarks. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/04/remarks-first-lady-change-direction-mental-health-event (accessed 2020 Mar 25).