Student leaders from colleges and universities statewide focus on improving campus mental health

DAVIS, WV – More than 50 student leaders representing colleges and universities across West Virginia recently came together at Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center for the annual West Virginia Student Leadership Conference (WVSLC) to discuss a variety of issues college students care about, including student mental health. The WVSLC serves as a training event for student government representatives, many of whom are newly elected to their roles.

The event provides workshops on a variety of leadership topics and an opportunity for student leaders to exchange ideas and work together to find solutions to issues that are important to them. Much of this year’s discussions centered on reducing the stigma around mental health, providing mental health intervention services, and training students to be mental health advocates.

Students talked about the need for crisis and mental health support centers on college campuses, increasing mental health awareness, promoting self-care activities, bringing in local mental healthcare providers, and hosting mental health events. Student leaders also expressed a need for increased funding for counseling and mental health services so campuses can establish greater and more flexible hours for these services.

“We know that college is not easy, and students need to understand that it is ok not to be ok sometimes,” said Walker Tatum, Marshall University Student Body Vice President. “Here at Marshall University, we have a Green Bandana Initiative that was started by our previous administration that allows students to take a training course to understand how to be a mental health resource for other students in case one of your peers may need someone to talk to as soon as possible. I encourage all students to be that connection of a mental health resource for their peers and constituents.”

The West Virginia Advisory Council of Students (ACS) recently launched the West Virginia Green Bandana Initiative – a student-led mental health awareness campaign that trains students to be mental health advocates on their college campuses. The West Virginia ACS was recognized as “Prevention Champions” by West Virginia Collegiate Prevention for their leadership in implementing this initiative, which they plan on continuing next year.

“Mental health is one of the biggest concerns facing college students of all ages statewide,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education. “I am so proud of these students for emerging as leaders on their campuses and for coming together as a strong, collective statewide voice on this critical issue. Because of them and the innovative initiatives they’re implementing, I am incredibly hopeful for the progress that can be made around students’ well-being – which is fundamental to their academic and future successes.”

This year, 14 West Virginia colleges and universities were represented at WVSLC. This marks the 17th annual WVSLC, and the first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WVSLC is cosponsored by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, with Shepherd University assisting with coordination of the event.

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