Cody Dumas
ASGCU, President

It was in the Spring of 2014 that I realized Mental Health Awareness was an initiative that I wanted to start on campus at Grand Canyon University. What better way to execute an initiative, such as this one, than with ASGCU. I knew that by utilizing student government, the opportunity to reach as many students as possible was endless.

With the help of my executive team and other ASGCU members, we decided to tackle this issue through two distinct outlets. The first is through our mental health awareness week, known as Embrace. This week will be dedicated to educating students about mental health awareness on campus, breaking the stigma, and providing the proper resources to students. To do this, we will be partnering with several groups and individuals including Dr. Deb Wade, the Canyon Counseling Center, and various student clubs and organizations. Together, we have created a week-long list of events, educational seminars, and activities that we believe will promote a healthy, positive, and engaging atmosphere for students to openly discuss mental health issues. In addition, we are also partnering with an outside organization, The Commit Campaign. This group is solely dedicated to breaking the stigma surrounding mental health through social media platforms. They will be joining us at several events and activities throughout the week.

To prepare for this week, we spent the entire first semester planning and organizing. The Embrace planning committee was made up of several students belonging to ASGCU, other leadership groups on campus, the TWLOHA club, and the Canyon Counselors Club. For three months, we would meet every few weeks to discuss our thoughts and ideas. By the end of the first semester, we created a tentative schedule of events and solidified the marketing plans. I believe this is important for students to know because this campaign has been entirely student influenced; everything that is taking place this week was thought about by members of the student body. It is our hope that students will take part in this initiative and the various activities that we have planned for the week.

Looking beyond the awareness week, we also knew that it would be important to provide students with more outlets to talk and discuss these issues with their peers. After doing some research and reading online statistics, we found that students are more likely to open up with their peers before seeking full time help in regards to their struggles. With inspiration from the University of Michigan, we decided to move forward in creating the Lopes Support Network (LSN). The LSN will provide the student body the opportunity to share with their peers the struggles they are facing. The organization will consist of several small groups, each led by a student volunteer. These groups will meet once a month and allow students to open up with one another. Students attending the LSN will be met with acceptance and not rejection. These are not to be considered ‘support groups,’ however, they are structured to be a support network. The Lopes Support Network will launch February 15th, sign ups for groups are live this week.

I understand that students struggle with much more than just school and academics. I want to provide students with the proper outlets and resources they need to live a healthy and full life. I want students at GCU to know that this is a place where they are loved and that they will be taken care of. I believe we are living at a time where the stigma towards mental health is on the cusp of breaking down and anything I can do to be a part of that, I am going to do it.