Mental health can be difficult to discuss, both for those seeking support and those who notice someone else may be struggling.
“Free to Talk: An Interactive Conversation About Mental Health” aims to help destigmatize talking about mental health and provide guidance on how the entire campus community can more effectively communicate and address mental health concerns.
The event is scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9, in Collier Building Room 1200 on The University of Toledo Health Science Campus. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend.
“Students in colleges across the U.S. are struggling and we are no different. Students everywhere are really overwhelmed right now, and more of us need to understand that,” said Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach, professor of educational psychology and director of the Center for Education in Mass Violence and Suicide.
Pescara-Kovach said a number of national surveys completed over the past year have shown a high number of students are struggling with anxiety and depression. College poses challenges in typical years, she said, but the impact of the pandemic and related social isolation have led to an even greater number of mental health concerns.
“We need to normalize the fact that people are struggling, understand what that means and reassure them that there is help available,” Pescara-Kovach said. “My message to faculty — myself included — is to remind ourselves just how much students are going through. And, yes, there may be times we have to be a bit more flexible.”
Pescara-Kovach said faculty come to know their students throughout the semester and that any significant changes in their behavior or academics are worth looking into.
“It’s just a simple, ‘Are you OK? Is there anything I can do to help?’ We often struggle with not knowing how to have that conversation,” she said. “These are tough topics, but asking the questions are so important. You never know when you are saving a life.”
The event will also feature an overview of free resources available through the UToledo Counseling Center, information on how faculty and staff can reach out to students, report concerns about a student’s well-being, and an opportunity for individuals to share their own personal stories.
The event is sponsored by the Center for Education in Mass Violence and Suicide, the Counseling Center and the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, as well as the Lucas County Suicide Prevention Coalition and Equality Toledo.