Campus mental health forum sparks discussion in Akron
More than 160 people attended a forum dealing with campus mental health on Thursday, April 8, at the Quaker Square Inn at the University of Akron. The forum was the third in a series of events produced by the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation. Partners co-sponsoring Thursday's mental health forum were the Ohio Department of Mental Health, NEOUCOM (Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine & Pharmacy), the Ohio Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence and the University of Akron.
The forum began with a presentation by Jerald Kay, M.D., professor and chair of the department of psychiatry in the Boonshaft School of Medicine at Wright State University. Dr. Kay described a growing mental health crisis as high school students make the transition to college and tax a medical system that is often ill-prepared to deal with the number of students who seek help. He pointed out that there are nearly 1,100 suicides on campus every year. In a 2001 Jed Foundation survey, 28.3 percent of high school students acknowledged sadness or hopelessness almost every day for more than two weeks, and nearly 15 percent of these had made a specific plan to attempt suicide.
Other speakers echoed Dr. Kay's statistics, including Sgt. Chad Cunningham of the University of Akron police department. Sgt. Cunningham encouraged college representatives in attendance to acquire a Crisis Intervention Team at their school. He described how such a team can be a resource to students seeking help on campus.
The keynote speaker at lunch was Alison Malmon, founder of Active Minds, a student-run organization with chapters at 254 campuses. Alison founded the organization in 2002 after her older brother died by suicide while on a leave of absence from Columbia University. Malmon addressed about 300 University of Akron students who attended a special evening presentation in the student union theatre.
An afternoon panel discussion featured the following individuals: Juanita Martin, PhD, director of the counseling center at the University of Akron; David Ritchey, PhD, professor in the school of communication at Akron University; Nelson Burns, president and CEO of Coleman Professional Services; Stephen Craig, lead resident assistant at Walsh University; Angela Tucker Cooper, executive director, Mental Health America of Summit County; and Jim Rogers, PhD, president, American Association of Suicidology, and professor in the department of counseling at the University of Akron.