Shed the Silence event to bring mental health and campus suicide awareness

Cultural stigmas and barriers to treatment prevent adequate discussion and action for mental health issues, co-adviser for Active Minds Mizzou Christine Glissmann said.
Active Minds laid out 1,100 shirts on April 12 near the Student Center to represent representing each life lost to suicide on collage campuses over the last year.

To promote awareness about college suicides, Active Minds Mizzou will be displaying 1,100 T-shirts on April 12 on Kuhlman Court. The shirts at the event represent the number of college students in the U.S. who take their own lives each year, co-adviser for Active Minds Mizzou Christine Glissmann said.

The event, Shed the Silence, is an adaptation of the national Active Minds event called “Send Silence Packing,” where backpacks are displayed to represent college suicides. The MU chapter decided on the modification to decrease costs and still get the same message out, Glissmann said.

Two out of three MU students do not know about mental health resources on campus, according to a survey conducted by the Partners in Prevention and the Wellness Resource Center.

A mental health stigma exists in today’s culture and is perpetuated by media, Glissmann said. On television and in movies, people with mental health issues are often portrayed as violent and unstable. People believe a change of attitude toward mental health will help.

“A lot of people think ‘pick yourself up by your bootstraps’ and ‘change your attitude,’ but it’s not that simple,” Glissman said. “It shows a lack of understanding about mental illnesses.”

Boards with messages of hope and information about resources will stand by the shirts, and a counselor from the MU Counseling Center will be available for those who may be triggered, Glissman said. Event leaders will also be informing people of a 20-minute online course called “Ask, Listen, Refer”, which teaches people how to identify suicidal warning signs.

“We’re trying to say, ‘suicide does happen and here are some resources,’” Glissmann said. “We’re trying to bring awareness to mental health and put resources out there.”

The group hopes that this event will help students who are struggling realize that they are not alone and encourage them seek help on and off campus.

“The biggest thing people tell me is that ‘I always thought I was the only person who went through all this,’” said Tim Harlan, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Columbia Family Support Group. “Because of the stigma of mental health, people just don’t talk about it.”

NAMI is the largest mental health grassroots organization in the nation, according to its website. The Columbia Family Support Group is an opportunity for community members to share experiences or resources, Harlan said.

Getting coverage for mental health treatment through Medicaid can be difficult because it is not an objective physical problem, Harlan said. There are also fewer hospital beds available for mental health patients in Missouri than there were 25 years ago. Some days, there are no open beds statewide.

“With mental health, we know what to do but don’t do it, we don’t make it available,” Harlan said. “I think the highest cause of disability is mental health problems because it’s harder to get treatment.”

In addition to the MU Counseling Center and the Wellness Resource Center, MU students and Columbia residents can visit New Horizons, Burrell Behavioral Health and NAMI Columbia Family Support Group for their mental health needs.

“These groups exist to start talking about mental illness,” Glissmann said. “We’re getting there as a society, but we’re not there yet.”

Edited by Hailey Stolze |

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