KSU ‘You Matter’ program uses trends and friends to fight mental health crises

KENNESAW, Ga. | Sep 13, 2023

You Matter sign
A new Kennesaw State University program arms students with knowledge and resources that leaders hope will encourage students and their peers to reach out in times of mental health crisis.

In time for National Suicide Prevention Month, KSU has launched its “You Matter” suicide prevention and mental health program, aiming to reduce the stigma around addressing depression and thoughts of suicide among college students. The program, hosted by the KSU Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) a department within the Division of Student Affairs (DSA), includes events and permanent signs in high-traffic areas on both campuses, encouraging discussion of stressors and pressures of daily life, teaching students to recognize the signs of suicide among their peers and directing students to KSU, state, and national resources that can help in times of distress.

“We want to make sure students know there are people on campus to support them and that they don’t have to be afraid or ashamed to reach out,” said Marcy Stidum, assistant vice president of student wellbeing in the Division of Student Affairs. “This event launches in September, but we want these suicide prevention measures and awareness events to be an ongoing, evergreen campaign that KSU CPS will lead.”

Ariyanna White, associate director of case management with CPS, says students who visit the counseling center often say they struggle to make friends and find a sense of belonging, especially after experiencing isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. This period of isolation, White said, has made many students feel as though no one can relate to their concerns or fears.

The priority in developing You Matter events has been to make them relatable to students. Events use discussions and games to encourage peer interaction and capitalize on social media or popular culture trends that students are familiar with.

“We want students to know that they can connect with people without feeling like a burden,” White said. “We are interested in engaging the entire KSU community in becoming a campus of care.”

A related CPS endeavor that White said she hopes will further encourage students to reach out in times of need is the peer counselor initiative. Peer counselors are students who are trained to recognize signs of suicide, intervene, and redirect students in crisis to the help they need.

KSU sophomore Aaliyah Sargeant is training as a peer counselor and said she got involved with peer counseling because she has a passion for mental health. Aaliyah hopes to follow a career in clinical psychology, and she wants to help as many KSU students as possible while she’s here.

The psychology major said she sees firsthand the reservations students have in seeking professional help, either because of a lack of knowledge of campus resources, or out of fear that they may be judged or misunderstood.

“The fact that we’re peers makes us more relatable, and I think it’s sometimes easier to come up to us and ask us a question or for us to approach them if we see they’re struggling,” Sargeant said. “To anyone struggling, I’d say that it’s okay to not be okay and that KSU really cares about students’ wellbeing. We all want an emotionally healthy student body. There are resources to help.”

If you or someone you know is in mental health crisis or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Hotline at 988, or visit 988lifeline.org. KSU students who are in crisis between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday can call the 24/7 campus health support line at 833-874-0013 or CPS at 470-578-6600.

— By Thomas Hartwell

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.