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Ricketts, Ruelas emphasize mental health awareness at town hall meeting

| Friday, October 2, 2015

On the eve of Irish State of Mind Week’s mental health awareness campaign, student government hosted a town hall meeting Thursday evening and answered the questions of senators, hall presidents and other students.

“We’re at a different place in the conversation with mental health than we are with sexual assault,” senior student body president Bryan Ricketts said. “We’re just trying to define the problem with mental health in general right now.”

On Monday, student government kicks off mental health awareness week with their Irish State of Mind initiative.

20151001, 20151001, Michael Yu, Oak Room, Online Forum, SDH, Student Governemtn Town HallMichael Yu | The Observer

“We decided that mental health awareness needs to be education in tandem with action,” senior student body vice president Nidia Ruelas said. “The idea is that we’re going to release a video next week in conjunction with other ACC schools, with the message ‘Just Ask.’ It means asking really, truly how someone is doing, finding out how they really are underneath the facades we put on in high stress situations, which we obviously have a lot of here.”

Ruelas said she has also started to work with a variety of focus groups to determine different and better solutions to student mental health needs.

“We want to figure out if we’re doing the proper outreach to groups, and trying to figure out how to better respond to all of that,” she said. “We found with racial and ethnic minorities that they responded really well with group setting, so it’s about understanding what our target is and how to best serve them.”

Ricketts also introduced a new partnership between student government and the individual colleges to target more specifically the issue.

“This summer, we spent a lot of time with the administration trying to figure out the problem with mental illness … we wanted to work with the colleges to figure out how they can specifically help,” Ricketts said. “… It will be different with the Architecture majors than the Arts and Letters majors.” 

In addition to addressing mental health, Ricketts and Ruelas emphasized their continuing attention to the issue of sexual assault at the University.

“We as a community are responsible for what happens in this community,” Rickets said. “… Holding one another accountable has kind of been the underpinning of change regarding sexual assault here.”

Last year, student government launched the It’s On Us campaign to help prevent sexual assault.

“The It’s On Us campaign all starts by being like, ‘Hey, we’re going to look out for each other. We’re going to be there for each other,'” Ruelas said. “But that doesn’t end with your friends.”

The Green Dot program also helps to educate students through training sessions, they said.

“You see the difference when we reach out to people to come to trainings for these things, they’ll bring two or three people with them. … We’re holding more people accountable for their actions,” Ricketts said.

“… The more conversations we have about it, the better. If you can convince that person, that naysayer, that one person who dwells in the what-ifs, if you can convince them that it’s on them too, that really is tangible change.”

Ruelas also spoke about the recent push to make reporting sexual assault a simpler process.

“We put out posters at the beginning of the semester describing how to deal with sexual assault,” she said. “It’s simple enough, so that if you see something when you’re out and about, you can say something. It’s a whole part of the culture piece in order to effect change.”

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall and is currently serving as an Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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