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How ORU students’ Mental Health Initiative is combating the rise of depression and anxiety

by Grant Holcomb and Lauren Brewington

Almost seven percent of people in the U.S. suffer from major depressive disorder, nearly four percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and more than three percent are affected by generalized anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

To help students deal with these disorders, ORU Counseling Services provides three licensed staff and one grad student who shadows a counselor.

“The purpose of counseling services is to provide professional counseling care with a Christian worldview,” said Michelle Taylor, director of counseling services. “However, we are limited and there is only so much we can do.”

To help fill the gap, several students taking the course Principles of Management have jumped in to do what they can to help the cause. The team have come up with their own grassroots plan to combat depression-related issues.

“We plan to spread awareness on campus through media exposure and orchestrate a community meeting in order to start the conversation about this sensitive topic,” said Jonathan Rodriguez, one of the students involved. “Whether you or someone you know are depressed, anxious, suicidal or suffering from a mental disorder, it is not something that should ever be overlooked.”

The students are hosting monthly meetings on campus for those who need a support group.

“We are trying to start with a group of students that are available to help others with their distress and disorder found on campus,” said Rodriguez.

While the team is providing support, it still encourages students to seek professional help if needed and available, but they believe creating worthwhile friendships can be a stepping-stone in the right direction.

“People supporting each other is a good thing, and these conversations about the hard topics need to become a norm in our society,” said Taylor. “People need connection, and no one should be isolated.”

Taylor and her staff are aware that many students have had to wait to see a counselor and they are always looking for ways to improve the situation. She is also encouraged that the counseling office will be moving to the new building recently purchased by ORU.

“Good things are in the works, and we are actively looking for more counselors.”

Taylor strongly believes serious needs can be well cared for within a community, of which ORU is not lacking. However, people gravitate toward confidentiality, competence and unconditional acceptance. With that, Taylor thinks some students may struggle with trusting these qualities in their comrades.

Counseling Services also provides information for students about outside resources, but Taylor says most students do not reach out to those resources and they’re working to understand why.

“If there is a life-threatening situation, we reach out immediately. We also reach out to those who are on the waiting list and offer resources,” stated Taylor. “We would like to understand the roadblock and the hurdle when not reaching out to those other resources because some are free.”

The suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and you can text “HOME” to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line. You can also reach out to C-O-P-E-S in Tulsa, a Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Service through Family & Children’s Services.

Taylor encourages the Principles of Management students to continue their outreach because “the more people there are, the better.”

“Together, our mission is to create a hopeful environment where people can rely on their ORU community and staff for support during difficult struggles of life,” said Rodriguez. “We can do this by engaging the community here on campus.”

Photo provided by Mental Health Initiative. | Left to right: Omeiza Akerele, Anxhela Rama, Elliot Smith, Instructor of Management Megan Weinkauf, Andrew Collier, Cameron Fenimore and Jonathan Rodriguez. 

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