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UNC colloquium aims to expand mental health conversations

UNC's Campus Health, which houses CAPS, is pictured on Sept. 12, 2022.

In Nov. 2021, University leaders hosted a summit to address the ongoing global mental health crisis. Nearly a year later, the Heels Care Network plans to host a mental health colloquium to continue the conversation about mental health on campus.

The theme of the colloquium, ‘Identity, Cultural Awareness and How to Support One Another,’ was inspired by requests from the community to discuss how mental health and identity intersect, according to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson.

“One of the things that we heard very clearly from folks is that mental health, dealing with it and addressing it, doesn't happen in a vacuum,” Johnson said. “And so folks have been interested to talk about the intersections of mental health and other things in their lives that also affect their mental wellbeing and how they're feeling.”

The summit last fall was intended to kick off a larger series of events and conversations which would spread awareness about mental health, said Ethan Phillips, senior and vice president for Health and Wellness at the Association of Student Governments for the UNC System. In the same way, the colloquium is a kickoff to the Heels Care Network Mental Health Seminar Series, he said.

Phillips encourages every student, faculty and staff member to attend the colloquium, but he said that this event is not the end goal.

"The conversation needs to be ongoing, it needs to be continual," said Phillips. "But we also need to be thinking about how they apply to ourselves, how they apply to our broader campus and what changes can we start making in our lives, in our relationships and in the broader campus community to actually put some of these best practices into reality."

The colloquium will include two presentations and time for breakout sessions. Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Leah Cox will host ‘Practicing Cultural Awareness and Humility,’ discussing how culture and cultural awareness affect mental health care.

“So if we understand the cultures of others, if we have more awareness and appreciation, then we'll do a better job of making sure we have a safe and healthy and mentally healthy community,” said Cox.

In her presentation, Cox said she will explain what it means to be culturally aware, address safety concerns to note when it comes to cultural awareness, discuss definitions surrounding this topic and speak to how cultural awareness plays a role in mental health, especially on college campuses.

Cox emphasized the importance of finding a supportive community on campus.

“Every student has to find that place where they feel comfortable and respected and that folks want to engage with them," she said. "And so, it’s not just about them finding a space, it’s also about those of us who are here who are reaching out to them, to bring them in and not push them out."

UNC School of Social Work Clinical Assistant Professor April Parker will present ‘Trauma-Informed Engagement in the Community,’ discussing collective trauma in communities and the importance of taking a trauma-informed approach when engaging with these communities.

Parker has appreciated the thoughtfulness of the organizers for the colloquium. She said that from Cox’s presentation on cultural humility to her session on trauma-informed engagement to the breakout rooms, the content flows well together.

“What I'm going to be talking about is cultural humility in action," she said. "When you're engaging in the community, that's the approach, along with trauma-informed, you know, knowledge, those things just fit together."

Parker added that though her presentation primarily addresses how the University can engage with surrounding communities, the same principles can be applied to the niche networks within the University community itself.

‘Identity, Cultural Awareness and How to Support One Another’ will be held virtually on Sept. 14, from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Following the colloquium, the Heels Care Mental Health Seminar Series will host two upcoming sessions on various topics relating to mental health.

Mental health resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the national helpline at 988. The line is available 24/7 via call or text, and is free and confidential.

UNC students who need assistance during this time may contact Counseling and Psychological Services or Student Wellness. CAPS can be reached 24/7 by phone at 919-966-3658. University employees can reach out to the Employee Assistance Program.

University mental health resources can also be found on the Heels Care Network website — including a list of campus crisis and therapy care options, care referrals and peer support. 

Peer supporters from student-run organization Peer2Peer — which offers mental health resources for graduate and undergraduate students — can be reached through their online form. Students can remain anonymous.

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For additional information on local and campus mental health resources, see a list compiled by The Daily Tar Heel’s Editorial Board.