Celebrating Mental Health Counseling Week
Advocating for mental health awareness, access, and sustainability is imperative in our growing field. With the current challenges of managed care systems, insurance reimbursement policies, and pervasive social stigmas surrounding mental illness, we—as counselors—must stand at the forefront of social justice and be a voice for change.
To exercise our bourgeoning advocacy behaviors and celebrate Mental Health Counseling Week, my classmates and I developed and implemented a stress management event for the undergraduate students on campus at Plymouth State University. Led by our professor, AMHCA past-president Dr. Gail Mears, we not only advocated for greater mental health awareness and wellness, but we also practiced the fundamentals of program development. Thus, we identified a broad goal, listed our objectives and strategies to meet those objectives, and engaged in post-event evaluation and reflection.
The successful model of our “Stress Free Is The Way To Be” program may be beneficial to those searching for ways to promote mental health awareness in their local communities. With an available event space, a few resources and advertisements, and committed volunteers, this model is relatively cost-effective and manageable. Our final program consisted of six tables (or booths), each one focusing on a specific aspect of stress management. We incorporated a table highlighting the effects of music on stress management, one that promoted healthy eating, and another that outlined the benefits of using creative activity to reduce stress levels. These tables also included an experiential component with music, food, and crafts available for students to enjoy. The subsequent three tables provided resources that promote greater physical, emotional, and psychological health. The Plymouth State University Counseling Center and Wellness Club agreed to participate and provided materials and additional information, each managing their own tables. Finally, a few students researched local hiking trails and provided maps and area information for local trails. The integration of multiple forms of stress management techniques along with diverse hands-on activities proved successful and is a model highly recommended for those looking to develop community-based wellness programs.
As counselors, or future counselors, it is imperative that we engage in every opportunity to truly celebrate mental health. From preventative measures like stress management to restorative measures like diagnosis and treatment, we must develop programs that promote greater awareness, champion the underserved, and foster the vision of a better tomorrow.
*Thank you to Dr. Gail Mears and my classmates for your efforts in this event.