picture of Sam Hagwood with quote:"I make sure to spend time with my family and do things that I enjoy most"

"Mental Health Matters": Chancellor, Deans, and Faculty Partner with Student Health in Stigma Reduction Campaign

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In an academically rigorous setting such as UCSF, it is not uncommon to encounter highly talented, focused, and dedicated students, staff, and faculty members. While this environment allows the institution to be identified as a leading health sciences university and facilitates the UCSF mission of advancing health worldwide™, the high-achieving atmosphere can contribute to challenges in managing one’s mental health.

Advocacy for routine and preventative primary health care has continued to garner support, yet there still remains a considerable stigma around acknowledging mental health needs.  One 4th year PhD student who wished to remain anonymous shared:

"Very early in my graduate career, a close family member died under tragic and traumatic circumstances.  The months that followed were really rough, and several months after I was still struggling.  There came a point in time when I recognized that I wasn't where I wanted to be mentally, and I didn't think I could pick myself up and progress any further on my own. That's when I decided to go see a therapist.  Therapy was incredibly valuable for me to have a space where I could process my grief.  I want to share my story because I doubt that I'm the only UCSF student to struggle with grief, depression, or other unexpected life challenges and I agree that de-stigmatizing mental health and even talking about mental health issues is really important.  Talking to a therapist is a great place to have a safe, protected space to talk to an objective party that wants to help you. Based on my experiences with mental health services at UCSF, I'd strongly encourage anyone to go talk to a therapist, even if you haven't experienced life-altering tragedies.”

In an effort to address the stigma related to mental health, UCSF Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) will launch the “Mental Health Matters” campaign on October 20th. The campaign features a poster campaign and social media highlighting our faculty and our Chancellor answering the question, “How do you take care of your mental health?” The specific aims are: 1) to reduce stigma regarding mental health, 2) to normalize help seeking and self-care, and 3) to demonstrate to students that even their role models and mentors need to manage their emotional health, and value doing so as a key to their success.

The University of California (UC) has long recognized student mental health as an ongoing and urgent issue in higher education. National mental health trends also present a challenge at all UC campuses and their efforts to maintain healthy learning environments. UCSF is no exception. The Student Mental Health Initiative grant (SMHI), which was funded by Proposition 63 (Mental Health Services Act) and the California Mental Health Services Authority, was created to support student mental health programs including the development of marketing and social media campaigns, such as “Mental Health Matters”, to reduce stigma and discrimination regarding mental health.

The “Mental Health Matters” Campaign will also be featured as part of the UCSF campus’ first day of Mental Health Awareness Week activities on October 27th, 2014. The week of events is a collaboration between SHCS, Student Life, Medical School Well Being Program, and the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. On that day, a tabling event will occur at both Parnassus (in the Med Science Lobby), and Mission Bay (2nd Floor Byers Hall Atrium), that will include an opportunity for students to participate in an art project where they will get a chance to share their own mental health management strategies by answering the same question, “How do you take care of your mental health?”. Students will also be invited to comment on the SHCS Mental Health Awareness Campaign website (https://studenthealth.ucsf.edu/MentalHealthAwareness2014), and the SHCS Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/studenthealth).

SHCS hopes these images and statements will resonate with UCSF students and emphasize the importance of mental health as a normal, valuable component of everyday life.  For more information about the Mental Health Awareness Campaign, visit: https://studenthealth.ucsf.edu/MentalHealthAwareness2014.