UW-Platteville addresses mental health on campus
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – The conversation that began with PostSecret Live at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has continued, with Counseling Services, Student Senate and representatives of the student body coming together to discuss mental health.
PostSecret Live, which took place on Dec. 5, featured Frank Warren, the creator of the PostSecret project. Leading up to the event, Megan Kubatzke, a senior reclamation major from Greenfield, Wisconsin, and Hannah Pease, a senior political science and business major from Friendship, Wisconsin, distributed blank postcards and postcard drop boxes around campus and the Platteville community, asking people to write a secret on the card and share it with them.
At PostSecret Live, all of the postcards received were hung up for attendees to view. Kubatzke and Pease estimate that they received around 1,000 secrets through their postcard campaign. They also estimate that almost 500 people attended PostSecret Live at UW-Platteville.
While at UW-Platteville, Warren spoke about how he began PostSecret and the effects that he has seen come from it. “As it's evolved, I get emails from people who talk about the experience of taking ownership of a secret they've been keeping inside and releasing it on a postcard to a stranger. People have said it's been cathartic, it's allowed them to take a second, a third, a fourth step in relationship to that secret. My hope is that for the heavy ones, it allows people to reach a new level of reconciliation with their experience, with their feeling themselves,” said Warren.
For Kubatzke and Pease, Warren’s visit to campus and the postcard project was a way to bring mental health into focus. “Mental health is not always a person in a corner that's deep and dark and scary that they can't get out of. Mental health sometimes is just being able to talk to people. It's about having the ability to have a civil conversation and say, this is what's wrong, this is what I'm thinking, or this is what I need to tell you. We're trying to bring light to something that's been put in a deep, dark, scary place for everyone,” said Pease.
In a continuing effort to raise awareness of mental health, Kubatzke and Pease plan to create a permanent worry box campaign on campus and in the community. “We have 24 boxes that we want to have permanently placed on campus. These boxes will continue this sharing of thoughts to be able to relieve some worries. We also want to use it as a continual climate survey, so we'll be coming to Counseling Services, the Dean of Students, and a few different academic centers. We want to continue on a monthly basis to see where our campus is at at that moment,” said Kubatzke. This campaign will be made possible through a grant from the Charles E. Kubly Foundation, which also funded Warren’s visit to UW-Platteville.
According to Deirdre Dalsing, director of Counseling Services at UW-Platteville, many students feel that there is a public and personal stigma to seeking help for mental health needs. This was discovered as a result of the 2012 Healthy Minds Study in which UW-Platteville participated. “Students believed that their friends should get help, but they did not feel that they themselves needed to or that they should. There was this desire to see that other people were well taken care of but there was still this public and personal stigma, that they didn't think people would respond well if they sought help, and they would think less of themselves if they sought help,” said Dalsing. As a result of this finding, Counseling Services began the Stomp Out Stigma campaign in an attempt to reduce the stigma against mental health and seeking treatment for mental health issues.
Kubatzke sees the postcard project and worry box campaign as helping those who might suffer from this stigma. Kubatzke said, “This is not about anyone else. This is about you, but in an unintimidating way. We are giving people a blank canvas where you can write whatever you wanted to. You do not have to share your deepest darkest secret, or you could share something that’s been afflicting you for years.”
Kubatzke and Pease attribute much of the success of the postcard project and PostSecret Live to UW-Platteville’s Student Senate, who were active partners in carrying out the project. Courtney Wallin, a Student Senate representative, emphasized Student Senate’s desire to support UW-Platteville students, both physically and mentally. “We aren’t just looking for physical things that are wrong, we’re looking for what our students need, mentally and emotionally,” said Wallin. Student Senate plans to continue supporting Kubatzke’s efforts with the worry box campaign.
University Counseling Services also plans to expand their services and the programs offered to students. “This semester, we are adding a counselor and with the addition of a new counselor on staff, we are looking at building a much more diverse group therapy program so we'll be able to offer a group for anxiety, depression, and other topics, and we're excited about that,” said Dalsing.
Counseling Services currently offers counseling without additional charge to students of UW-Platteville and some groups for different mental health related topics. Counseling Services maintains an advisory board of students to help determine students’ mental health needs.
Written by: Emily Drews, Student Writer, Communications, 608-342-1194, firstname.lastname@example.org