IU has joined the Campaign to Change Direction, a national initiative to change the culture of mental healthcare in the United States.
The Women’s Fund of Central Indiana convened groups from Indiana to join the initiative and announced their involvement with the campaign May 31 in Indianapolis.
So far, eight Indiana cities, 45 college campuses, and also hospitals, health departments and businesses have pledged to advocate for open conversation about mental health in Indiana.
The goal of the partnership is to ensure that every resident knows how to recognize the five signs of emotional distress — personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness — within five years.
Nancy Stockton, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, described it as a public health campaign, similar to ones that educated people on signs of a stroke or heart attack.
“It’s just about being aware of other people’s possible stress and emotional discomfort,” Stockton said. “And not being afraid to approach them to see if they want to talk.”
By joining the partnership, IU pledges to take the campaign’s materials and utilize them in its mental health programming. Stockton said it’s still in its very early stages, but she foresees it being used in the orientation sessions CAPS uses for faculty and staff.
CAPS gives presentations to associate instructors, new faculty members, RPS staff and others about signs of emotional distress and how to handle mental health issues they may see in students.
These orientations will now be utilizing the campaign’s materials and ensuring that everyone is trained how to respond to the five signs of emotional distress.
According to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors survey, of which IU was a participant, anxiety was the most predominant and increasing concern among college students.
About 50 percent of college students who seek counseling services report experiencing anxiety, followed by 41 percent who experience depression.
In Indiana, teens are more likely to consider suicide compared to their peers nationally, according to the Indiana Youth Institute, a research organization based in Indianapolis.
With such high rates of mental disorders nationally and within the state of Indiana, the partnership aims to increase awareness of signs that could save someone’s life. It will also teach people how they can approach and reach out to those who may be showing signs of emotional distress.