Opinion: Boca House of Representatives’ ‘Mental Health Awareness Day’ was a missed opportunity

The House commemorated Jan. 12 as Mental Health Awareness Day, yet didn’t host any related events on the day itself.


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Ross Mellman, Contributing Writer

Jan 12. was Mental Health Awareness Day, but to most students, it was just an ordinary Friday.

A Boca House of Representatives bill designated Jan. 12 as a day to acknowledge mental health at the university level in fall 2017. The bill urged FAU to “devote more time, effort, and resources into ensuring that the university have the recommended amount of therapists and police officers hired to work on campus.”

This is partially because the university is “third in the state for having the highest amount of student per psychologist over the regulated amount,” according to a July 2017 House resolution.

Yet when Jan. 12 rolled around, not a single event was hosted on its behalf.

Eighty percent of students reported feeling “overwhelmed” by their responsibilities and 50 percent have become so anxious that they struggle in school, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. On top of this, 1 in 4 students have a diagnosable mental illness and only 40 percent of students seek help.

Depression, anxiety, and stress can all lead to someone taking their own life, which is why taking advantage of free on-campus resources early on is vital.

On the morning of May 1, 2017 students received an emergency message about an active police scene on the Palm Beach State College campus. Students were later informed the active scene was related to a PBSC student suicide.

Events like this are why we need to bring more awareness to college students’ mental health.

And while FAU Counseling and Psychological Services assistant director Nicole Saltzburg said that the department worked alongside members of Student Government while they prepared the Jan. 12 bill, there were no CAPS events held.

“FAU CAPS served as consultants for FAU SG in the planning of this event, sharing expertise about college mental health trends to inform the implementation of SG’s program on January 12,” Saltzburg said via email. “We hope to build off the momentum of the formal recognition of this day in the coming years through further collaborations with Student Government.”

Owls Care Health Promotion, according to its website, didn’t have any events scheduled related to Mental Health Awareness Day either.

And Jon Carter, SG Governmental Relations director, said that while SG and the FAU Peer Education Team hosted events in the fall such as “Stress Less Week,” there were no mental health events held Jan. 12.

Mental Health Awareness Day could have been a great opportunity to advertise the on-campus resources available to students right now long before the stress of midterms or finals move in.

While I don’t want to diminish the importance of creating this bill, it was a wasted opportunity.

I commend the efforts of the House of Representatives who worked to ensure the passage of the bill. However, due to the severity of the mental illness crises in our country, I believe that this is an issue that should be addressed every semester especially on a day set aside for mental health.

Ross Mellman is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].