Student Government Board member Matt Sykes announced Tuesday night that SGB will partner with the Counseling Center to host mental health training sessions this semester.
At the Board’s weekly public meeting, Sykes said the training sessions — a three-part series — will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. in room 527 of the William Pitt Union on Feb. 18, Feb. 25 and March 3. The series is split into three sessions to focus on different issues: recognizing signs of mental health distress in friends and peers, raising suicide awareness and coping with personal mental health issues.
According to Sykes, the training sessions are meant to help students recognize signs and spread awareness of mental health services, including the counseling center and Re:solve, a Pittsburgh crisis hotline.
“It’s about bringing the conversation of mental health to the forefront,” Sykes said. “Previously society’s been okay not talking about it. That’s why we’re doing it in a safe and friendly environment and teaching us how to talk about these issues.”
SGB hosted similar training sessions during October’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, which 150 students attended to learn more about dealing with mental health.
SGB President Nasreen Harun, who attended September’s sessions, said the training was “eye-opening” and offered subtle tips to help students who might not have experience with mental health issues, but still want to offer support to struggling friends.
“As college students, we’re faced with a lot of this,” Harun said. “We know when we see blatant warning signs and we don’t always know the right thing to do.”
For Sykes, the sessions don’t just help with awareness — they repair a damaged discourse.
“Students said it equipped them to better have these discussions [and taught them] how to really talk about it in a way that destigmatizes these issues and doesn’t put pressure on students,” Sykes said.
Sykes said he plans for SGB to host the sessions every semester, but does not yet know the focus of each session.
Student Affairs and the Counseling Center advertised this event through social media, using the hashtag #StomPittout and the Facebook pages for SGB and Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Sykes said the Counseling Center volunteered to lead each session.
“The Counseling Center is the most well equipped, and they know how to communicate it to students,” he said. “Hopefully it’s starting this snowballing effect where students will share what they learn with their peers.”
According to Sykes, even though the sessions will better equip students to handle situations involving mental health concerns, students should not feel responsible to replace psychiatric care.
“[The sessions] are meant for teaching students how to have these conversations and how to refer them to professional services,” Sykes said.
In other news, University Library Services invited SGB to send student representatives to meet candidates for the new ULS director position. Board members Lia Petrose and Everett Green will attend meetings this week.
Rohit Anand, chair of SGB’s Transportation Committee, and Board member Jacky Chen will meet with administrators and the interim director of the University Library System on March 2 to give student feedback Hillman Library. SGB plans to talk about keeping the battery packs fully charged for students to use and possibly adding more tables for students.
Anand and Chen invited students to contact SGB with feedback.
Chen also announced that SGB has confirmed a third speaker for the second annual TEDxPittsburgh conference, an independently run program similar to the national nonprofit TED Talks, which hosts speakers from different fields. This year’s TEDxPittsburgh conference will take place on March 26.
Kerry Tombs-Harling, a mindfulness therapist at UPMC, will join Dr. Michael Boninger, chair in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Pitt and the director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, and John Fetterman, the current mayor of Braddock and candidate for U.S. Senate.
Next Monday, Feb. 22, at 8:30 p.m., SGB candidates for next term will debate about their goals and initiatives, according to Elections chair Celia Millard. Students can also meet the candidates during Dean’s Hour on Feb. 25.
The National Society of Collegiate Scholars requested $1,731.19 for a conference in Orlando, Florida. The Board approved the request in full.
The Exercise Science program requested $2,214 for a conference in Orlando, Florida. The Board denied the request in full.
Engineers for a Sustainable World requested $3,550.40 for a conference in Berkeley, California. The Board approved $1,937.40 and denied $1,613.
PantheRaas requested $1,247.48 for a dance competition in Bloomington, Indiana. The Board approved $103.32 and denied $244.16.