The fifth annual Mental Health Awareness Week takes place at Buffalo State beginning on Monday, April 7, with activities scheduled daily. Events focus on ways to improve mental health by caring for ourselves and each other.
Caring for ourselves involves eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising as well as having fun and being with friends. "During Mental Health Awareness Week, we provide many activities that demonstrate ways to care for your mental health," said Joan McCool, director of the Counseling Center at Buffalo State. Activities include a Zumba session, writing a letter of thanks to someone, and learning how to deal with grief.
Caring for each other is exemplified by a day-long symposium, Buffalo State Cares, held Wednesday, April 9, in the Campbell Student Union Social Hall. The symposium begins with an overview of the $306,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The three-year grant funds a comprehensive suicide prevention program; the Center for Development of Human Services and Crisis Services are partners with Buffalo State on the project.
Jordan Burnham, a speaker from the national Active Minds organization, will deliver the keynote speech at 2:00 p.m. in the Social Hall in Campbell Student Union. Burnham will share his battle with depression and his recovery from attempted suicide.
The premise of Buffalo State Cares is that many suicides can be prevented. "We have made QPR training available to both the campus and the larger community," said McCool. QPR—question, persuade, and refer—are the keys to intervening successfully and preventing someone from committing suicide. UPstander awards, which recognize those who choose to act on their concern for others instead of merely being bystanders, will be presented at 3:30 p.m.
"We look forward to presenting awards to members of the campus community," said McCool, "but we also are thrilled to present an award to a community member, Darnell Barton. Barton is the NFTA bus driver who reached out to help a stranger.”
Recounting the incident, Buffalo News staff reporter Lou Michel wrote that the high school students who had just boarded Barton’s bus "had to wait a little longer than usual while Barton saved a woman’s life and taught them an unexpected lesson in human compassion."
McCool, who has been responding to students in need for more than 30 years, invites the community to join Buffalo State students, faculty, and staff at any of the activities taking place during the symposium.
At 4:00 p.m., a QPR training session will be held; any community group can contact the Counseling Center and arrange for a free training session. "It's important to know how to ask someone if he or she is thinking about harming themselves," said McCool. "Our goal is to help create a civil, caring community, and part of that means learning how to reach out to someone who is in pain, physical or mental."
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