YPSILANTI, Mich. (WXYZ) — As we all continue to grapple with the school shootings in Uvalde, Texas and at Oxford High School, there is growing talk about mental illness.
For a lot of young people, college can be the time when mental health problems first surface.
7 Action News spoke with a recent Eastern Michigan University graduate who said without help on campus, she likely would not have her degree or her life.
Before putting on her cap and gown as a 2022 graduate of EMU, Sheree Braswell thought this day may never come.
“Last year in 2021, it was a year filled with grief, stress, anxiety and depression,” Braswell said.
Braswell had many loved ones die including her grandmother, and her therapist was cut off abruptly due to issues with insurance and that sent her anxiety into overdrive.
“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital in Livonia at St. Mary’s (Hospital). I learned a lot about myself.”
She learned seeking help was a form of self-care.
“It was getting to the point where the thoughts were getting more racy and I work up and told my parents I needed to check myself in,” Braswell said.
Her cousin was also a big part of her support network, which is why she wears a T-shirt that says “Check on strong friends.”
“She always checked on me even through her busy schedule,” Braswell said of her cousin.
“I was just an ear for her,” Braswell’s cousin Cassandra Sylvers said. “(I told her) If you need to go to an institution, I will walk with you and I’ll be with you.”
But her college experience at EMU is what made her so strong. When she lost her therapist, one of her EMU professors recommended CAPS, which stands for Counseling and Psychological Services offered on campus. It’s been there for decades, but there are many new programs.
Sheree blogged about it and is now a mental health advocate.
“During that process, I was able to say hey — to other people — use CAPS at your local college,” Braswell said.
According to a study by Health Minds Network, college is a key developmental time and 75% of lifetime mental health problems will surface by age 24.
Between 2013 and 2021, they surveyed 350,000 students at more than 300 campuses. They found a 135% increase in depression and 110% increase in anxiety.
Ellen Gold is dean of students at EMU and the senior assistant vice president for Student Affairs. She says Eastern offers free, short-term therapy to students and has a part-time psychiatrist on staff. She says for many students struggled, especially during isolation from COVID-19.
To help EMU developed a program called Housecall, where every couple of days individuals call students and check in on them so they don’t feel alone.
Gold says the focus at EMU is on mental well-being. They have training for students and faculty on how to spot a student in distress and how to approach them.
“All the work we do is driven by our quest to save lives,” Gold said.
Sheree, who is not typical in her approach, stands out as a role model. Her willingness to be open about her mental health struggles earned her the youth Stress Let’s Talk About It peer award to break the stigma for mental illness in the Black community. She is now a beacon of courage for so many others to know it’s OK to Say and to seek help.
If you or someone you know is seeking help, you can call Michigan Stay Well Counseling 1-888-535-6136 or Michigan Warmline at 1-888-PEER-753.