Joshua Phelps, Features Editor

Last week, the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ chapter of the international student psychology group Psi Chi kicked off Mental Illness Awareness Week to promote mental well being amongst students. 

“Mental health is just as important as your physical health,” said Tapera Thomas, the president of Psi Chi. “It’s a part of the whole body experience. If you’re not taking care of one aspect of your body,  the other aspects of your body can’t operate well.” 

Mental Health Illness Week was established in 1990 by the U.S. congress in conjunction with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to increase awareness about mental illness.

According to Thomas, this year is the first year that Psi Chi has partnered with the university to focus on student mental health. 

Thomas, along with the students within the group, wanted to become more involved in campus life activity. “I felt one of the ways to do this was to become more interactive with our student body,” she said.  “With the prevalence of suicide among college students, that was a good way to reach out to our student population, as diverse as it is.”

In a September 2018 survey ran by Cindy Liu, the director of developmental risk and cultural disparities program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, CBS News reported that 1 in 5 college students considered taking their lives because they were stressed.  

Thomas said the psychology organization’s inspiration for mental health week started when a student, and close family friend of Thomas, committed suicide a year ago. “ I wanted to make sure there were no other mental health struggles,” she said.

Psi Chi co-sponsored with other groups such as Artists Anonymous, Triton Vets and the Associated Black Collegians raising mental health awareness and promoting mental wellbeing for UMSL students for the week of Oct. 7 to Oct. 11 

On Oct. 9, Psi Chi set up a table at the MSC bridge selling handmade ribbons, with proceeds going to NAMI. The organization also gave away mental health kits that included a stress toy, bubbles and a keychain. The kit also had a postcard from Mental Health America with mental illness stats and resources for students to contact.

During the events last week, Psi Chi also held an event the day before titled “Lunch and Learn with Counseling Services” on Oct. 8 at the Century Rooms in the Millenium Student Center. Both Thomas and Dr. Christopher Sullivan, the director of the health, counseling and disability access services hosted the event.

Thomas said the crowd was small, but focused. “It turned out quite nicely where people were able to ask very specific questions directed towards Christopher regarding the university and mental health,” she said.

In an email sent to The Current, Sullivant echoed Thomas’ response. “We talked about the different challenges students face and the many sources of stress and difficulty,” he stated. “We also discussed both the importance of self-care as well as some basic strategies for managing stress and dealing with difficulties.”

“We didn’t have a big turnout but had [an] engaged and involved discussion,” Sullivan stated.