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COGS, CAPS members discuss upcoming mental health events

September 18, 2018
Members of a panel with CAPS speak at Wells Hall on Sept. 10, 2018 after a screening of "The 'S Word'", a documentary.
Members of a panel with CAPS speak at Wells Hall on Sept. 10, 2018 after a screening of "The 'S Word'", a documentary. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Last week, the mental health committee within MSU's Council of Graduate Students, or COGS, and Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, hosted its inaugural World Suicide Prevention Day.

More than 200 students were in attendance at World Suicide Prevention Day events. Committee co-chair Kaitlyn Casulli said she was excited by the turnout.

“I think that shows that people are willing to support these kind of events and not only look at mental health from kind of a prevention and maintenance of stress, but also looking at mental illness themselves,” Casulli said.

Casulli said that COGS wants to bring awareness to everyone on campus who may be experiencing conditions such as anxiety disorders, crises requiring immediate response, psychiatric medication issues and clinical depression.

Reid Blanchett, a committee co-chair like Casulli, said people have to be given a way to display support.

“I learned that people can be incredibly supportive and incredibly understanding. You just kind of have to give them a way to display it,” Blanchett said. “We’re all human beings, and we’re all there to help each other. But it’s almost kind of like we keep it to ourselves, and the event was a way for everyone to come together and show how much we care about our community.”

CAPS also hosted a panel allowing for open discussion about mental health and suicide.

CAPS Director Mark Patishnock talked about a suicide prevention training he had taken at the university. According to him, it's an instrumental way to assist people in understanding warning signs of suicide.

“QPR is kind of a play on CPR. It stands for 'question, persuade, refer.' It’s three critical steps that a person can take to help save a life from suicide," Patishnock said. "It’s designed to help people understand that the signs of suicide look a little different, but still nonetheless require an immediate and specific response to help keep someone alive.”

COGS and the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, plan to hold a Mental Illness Awareness week from Oct. 7 to Oct. 13. Events they have planned so far include an open house at CAPS headquarters with ice cream and planting irises, the official flower of mental illness, in front of Olin Health Center.

Also planned for that week is trivia night at Red Cedar Spirits, therapy dogs at the MSU Library and sending cards to students in psychiatric hospitals.

“We can continue to make a safe and supportive mental health environment here at MSU,” Blanchett said.

On Sept. 18, there will be a meeting in room 247 of the Olin Health Center at 5:30 p.m. to create a mental health coalition, open to any student or student group.

“The goal would be that this mental health coalition actually serves as a mechanism to be responsible for all these awareness weeks and that it constantly lives on and evolves,” Patishnock said. “When students graduate, the momentum doesn’t stop and it's an ongoing group of people who are always picking up.”

CAPS wants the meeting to be open for discussion on how the coalition should function. Patishnock said this is an opportunity for the student body to have a tangible and ongoing voice on campus.

“Don’t look at someone just because they have suicidal ideation, like something's wrong with them,” Casulli said. “It’s surprisingly common. You never know who’s going through it.”

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