Mental health struggles are common among college students, but individuals are often reluctant to seek help. Now, leaders from some of the University of Iowa’s Fraternity and Sorority community are launching an initiative to de-stigmatize some of the most common issues faced by their members.
A team of leaders from Iowa’s Panhellenic Council executive board came together to create a plan to address mental health within their chapters. Their initiative focuses on growing peer support within the community through a competency training course in mental health known as "Name Your Story." This training covers over 15 topics ranging from eating disorders to substance abuse and addiction, as well as generalized anxiety and depression. Each Panhellenic chapter will designate “Mental Wellness Advocates,” who will complete this training and form committees to develop programming that address the most prominent mental health challenges within their individual chapters. In addition to the work within their chapters, the mental wellness advocates will also work with other Panhellenic chapters to develop programming for the community as a whole.
“We are aware that many people struggle in silence with their mental health and in our community the stigma might be even higher as we are in social organizations that are supposed to provide us with endless love and support. It may be hard for some individuals to come forward with their struggle as they might be seen like an outcast or like they are not living up to the expectations of their community. We recognize that no matter who you are, you can struggle with mental health and that it is a lot easier to open up about your own when you have people that share their experiences with you and who are empathetic. This is why we felt for our community, our peer mental wellness advocacy program would be the most effective approach,” said Sheyanne Koethe, the vice president of leadership and education for the Panhellenic Council.
In late January 2020, Koethe attended the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values conference in Indiana, where she and three other members of the Panhellenic Council presented this idea in the CAMPUSPEAK pitch competition. The team was comprised of
- Madeleine Ackerburg, UI Panhellenic president and member of Chi Omega sorority,
- Sheyanne Koethe, UI Panhellenic vice president of leadership and education for the Panhellenic Council and member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority,
- Chloe Olszewski, UI Panhellenic vice president of standards and accountability and member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, and
- Audrey Patterson, UI Panhellenic vice president of academic achievement and member of Delta Delta Delta sorority.
The University of Iowa team was selected as the winner, and was awarded a $15,000 educational grant, which will help them to implement this programming.
For additional information about Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Iowa, please visit https://fsl.uiowa.edu/.