UMN students to host mental health awareness event at Carlson

This Thursday, Carlson’s Business Board will host a panel discussion and student open mic.

Natalie Rademacher

After seeing friends struggle with mental illnesses, Carlson students Susan Pederson and Shelby Banks wanted to find a way to support more conversations about mental health at the university.

So the two joined the Carlson School of Management’s mental health committee, which was founded three years ago within the Carlson Business Board.

“It was kind of the first time at Carlson that we started to address mental illness,” Banks said. “It was taboo to talk about and now is something that can be talked about freely.”

This Thursday, the committee will hold its third annual event, “1-in-3: A Conversation About Mental Wellness.” Held in the Carlson Atrium, the event will consist of a panel on wellbeing featuring Carlson professors and keynote speakers. There will also be a student open mic for sharing stories about mental health.

In previous years, about 200-300 students attended, Banks said.

“The whole aim of the event is to destigmatize mental illness,” Pederson said.

Wayne Mueller, a marketing professor in Carlson, said he lets students know they can come to him if they are struggling with their mental health. He said it’s important to remind students that they are not alone in their challenges.

“I try to help remind students that there is strength in getting help,” Mueller said.

Having taught at the University for the past 15 years, Mueller said he did not see mental health being talked about on campus until about five or seven years ago.

Diane Houle, the mother of University student Jennifer Houle, who died by suicide in 2015, will share her family’s story as a keynote speaker for the event.

Jennifer, who had been diagnosed with depression, was a Carlson student who died near campus two years ago.

“We basically just want to help spread awareness. We are hoping we can do that by telling our story. If we can help even one person or prevent one family from going through what we have been through, we know we will have been successful,” Houle said.

Since her daughter died, Houle has been active in speaking out about mental health. She is involved in the Make It Okay campaign and said she regularly meets with Carlson to discuss its mental health initiatives.

She said she thinks business schools have an especially tense atmosphere, so it’s important to be proactive about mental health.

“I think Carlson is doing an excellent job of diving into this topic and realizing what an important topic it is,” Houle said.

Representatives from the Disability Resource Center, Make It Okay campaign, I Am Movement and other community contributors will have booths set up during the event as well.

“I think really starting that conversation and talking about it I think could change a lot of people’s lives,” Pederson said.