Mental health awareness speaker to bring positivity

Speaker Lauren Cook presents on stage. Cook seeks to bring positivity to campuses across the country. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Cook)

Mental health awareness has been a point of rising concern over the years, and the Panhellenic Council aims to make the subject matter approachable for all by bringing in charismatic and optimistic speaker Lauren Cook.

Cook, a graduate from UCLA brought in by UW’s Panhellenic Council, will be presenting “Name Your Story: How to Talk Openly About Mental Health While Embracing Wellness” at 7 p.m. in the Education Auditorium.

Panhellenic Council Vice President of Education Amanda Hartman, believes that even with substantial material people learn best in an entertaining environment.

“I think we need to have [a fun and entertaining speaker] who is going to come talk, especially about an issue as serious as this,” Hartman said.

There is something to be said of open and inclusive environments when breaching tough topics. Conducting a discussion or presenting information in direct but engaging ways makes a subject, such as mental health, approachable.

“In the past within the fraternity and sorority life on campus, we’ve had some issues with mental health,” Hartman said. “I know that on campus there’s been some issues that really haven’t been addressed, so we chose Lauren as someone to come in as a fun, bubbly person to kind of promote it, but to also make us aware on how to deal with the situation.”

Wyoming, as a state, ranks fourth in the nation for its suicide rate according to CBS News. The United Health Foundation reported that for every 100,000 people in Wyoming, there are 27.5 suicides.

“I’ve heard some stories that, in the dorms, there have been some issues with suicides throughout the past couple years, and there have been a couple issues with kids needing to go to the hospital to deal with mental health,” Hartman said.

Poor mental health is an issue in need of address at UW.

“I think that’s something the campus as a whole should be addressing, so I think that if we can get our foot in the door, [we can] start letting people know that this is a really serious issue, especially in Wyoming,” Hartman said.

Though Hartman has played a role in setting the stage for this evening’s presentation, Skye Irwin, former Panhellenic Council Vice President of Education, got the ball rolling last semester for this speaker.

“My goal was to raise awareness for mental health, not only for the Fraternity and Sorority Life community, but for everyone on campus,” Irwin said. “I thought bringing in a speaker would be a great way to do that.”

Irwin was able to work with her supervisor and find Cook through CAMPUSPEAK, an online platform that connects colleges to keynote speakers.

Finding Cook, for Irwin, was serendipitous, in that she discovered a Chi Omega sister to network with as she planned her mental health and wellness event.

Bringing this mental health to the limelight at this time appears to be advantageous in Irwin’s opinion, especially amid current trends in psychology.

“I think it’s one of those issues that this current generation is starting to talk about more,” Irwin said. “I think it’s something that everyone should start taking care of and nurturing, just as you do your physical health. You go to the doctor to get physical checkups, so you might as well go get a mental checkup as well to make sure you’re doing okay.”

Fostering a good understanding of mental health is one of the goals for the speaker event, as well as making the subject accessible to the community through Cook’s inspiring words.

“I hope that [the speaker event] is going to raise overall awareness, because we’re starting spring semester and it’s a good way to bring positivity going into it,” Irwin said.

This is one of the first steps being taken by campus organizations to bring the community into a connection with empathy. Tonight’s presentation is one way to expand one’s knowledge and grasp of the rising issues found in mental health and the awareness society holds in regard to it.

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