Honoring Mental Health Awareness Month

History of Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month has been recognized since 1949 in the United States. The awareness month started off as a week that was launched by the founder, Clifford W. Beers, of Mental Health America. The organization and awareness month aim to destigmatize mental illnesses and raise awareness on suicide, while drawing attention to psychological disorders and the communities that they affect nationwide. Check out Mental Health America’s webpage If you would like to learn more about the organization and the founder’s interesting history.

Mental Health Matters

College Students and Mental Health

“College students and mental health.” It can be overwhelming to see these five words in correlation to each other especially when college is typically where individuals are supposed to find themselves and enjoy learning about their chosen career paths. According to statistics, 39% of college students have experienced or are experiencing significant mental health issues. Half of these issues begin at the age of 14 and 75% begin at 24.

There are numerous factors that contribute to college students and their mental health. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic is among those factors and has made many students feel disconnected from society. Countless amounts of students are having to take on new responsibilities to support their family and to obtain their collegiate degrees. Check out the most recent data from Active Minds to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting students.

Counseling 101: All You Need to Know

Some individuals may argue that therapy is the easiest path for those struggling with mental illnesses, but it is far more complicated than that. Unfortunately, 67% of individuals ages 18-24 that suffer from anxiety or depression do not seek treatment. Although many universities offer free student counseling, there are several reasons why individuals do not reach out for help during a mental health crisis other than finances. Dr. Lena Pearlman suggests four reasons why some individuals do not pursue therapy as treatment.

They include:

  • I am not crazy.
  • I do not have the time.
  • My secrets need to stay secret.
  • I am in this alone for the long haul.

However, there are plenty of reasons to attend therapy sessions. One of the many reasons being that your therapy or counseling sessions are confidential. This means that no one has the right to know that you are attending therapy sessions without written consent. Secondly, you are in a safe space. No one is going to judge you for not liking your roommate, your high school friend’s boyfriend, or your parent’s new husband. However, therapy will enlighten you to understand other individuals’ perspectives, help you understand your strengths and weaknesses as an individual, and is free to all UNA students on campus through our Student Counseling Services.

image stating you are not alone
image stating it is ok to not be ok
image stating reach out if you need help


History of UNA Student Counseling Services

Before the Student Counseling Services was located on the 1st floor of Rice Hall, it started as a contracted service between UNA and Riverbend. A counselor was on campus four hours a week to see students in the Bennett Infirmary where Health Services was originally housed. Lynne Martin, the previous director of UNA Student Counseling Services, started as the counselor that fulfilled the contract in 2001 and was employed by Riverbend at the time. Eventually, demand for services grew and counselors were added to the staff. They began utilizing practicum and intern students from UNA’s Counselor Education program to offer more appointments for students and educational outreach programs.

In 2007, UNA decided to begin building an internal counseling option for enrolled students, and Lynne Martin was hired full time as UNA’s first Mental Health Counselor. The counseling sessions were still being held in Bennett Infirmary at that time. Soon, the three departments (DSS, Health Services, and Student Counseling Services) were separated in 2012 and each became their own departments. Lynne Martin was promoted to the first and original Director of Student Counseling Services Department, after serving several years as Assistant Director of Health Services for Counseling & Disability Services. Contracted counselors and graduate students were utilized to provide services until other counselors were hired.

The second location of UNA’s Student Counseling Services was located at the top of a hill behind Kilby in a white house. It had a memorable ambiance filled with ocean sounds and coloring books to ease the anxiety of students in the waiting room. Afterwards, it moved to the 1st floor of Rice Hall and Carmen Ritcher became the director after Martin’s retirement. Student Counseling Services is now a quick location for students to access, and it continues to have the same memorable ambiance as the little white house on the hill.

Counseling Services Offered at UNA

Although mental illness can be difficult to deal with, individuals do not have to do it alone. The University of North Alabama offers free counseling for enrolled students. There are also various group counseling options that deal with a variety of circumstances such as eating disorders, substance abuse, grief, and relationships. During COVID-19, they have also been practicing social distancing with their patients which involve Zoom meetings and sitting six feet apart during in-person sessions. You can find out more information about UNA’s Student Counseling Services and the many resources they provide at https://www.una.edu/counseling/ and on Instagram @una_scs.

image detailing mental health resources on campus