MSA gives student grant for mental health website

The project will connect students to others with mental health concerns.

Jenna Wilcox

 

When Adam Moen began his college career at the University of Minnesota, he felt lost and supplemented his “lack of purpose” with drugs and alcohol.

The senior finance major thought it was something he was supposed to deal with, but after getting into trouble with the law and distancing himself from family and friends, he decided it was important to share his story.

Moen found many students suffer from similar situations but don’t have easy access to a community to talk about it.

He came up with the idea to create a website called OURspace for students to connect with each other and health providers about mental health concerns, but can choose to remain anonymous.

“I realized how powerful it was to have someone sit across from me and say ‘I deal with stuff too,’” he said.

When the Minnesota Student Association announced its plans for the $10,000 Improve U Grant contest that would award money to a student with a proposal for making the University community better, Moen saw it as a way to turn his dream into a reality.

Now, with the student government’s support, University of Minnesota students may have access to such a website in the future.

Moen’s project will provide six different online learning communities — depression, anxiety, academic concerns, alcohol, substance abuse and stress — with video testimonials from students sharing their stories.

Moen already uploaded some of his own videos to YouTube under the name “That Mental Health Guy,” and will move them to the website when it’s created.

His roommate also made a video about what he went through when he lost his father and cousin within six months of each other.

After the video, Moen said his roommate was visibly happier.

“He was telling me how he felt so good about telling people about the experience and how he hopes it will positively benefit some people,” he said.

In addition to the videos, there will also be an open chat forum for students to discuss their experiences which will be monitored by someone like a clinical psychology student or administrator to help and give advice.

The forum will also provide links to various mental health resources.

Moen said he hopes the open communication will encourage more students to reach out to find help and resources.

The website will only be available for those with a University x500 account.

The Boynton Mental Health Clinic has seen an “incredible increase” in students looking to get care over the last year, according to Gary Christenson, the clinic’s director.

The Minnesota Daily previously reported an 8 percent increase in the number of services the clinic delivered over the last year and the increase has become a pattern throughout the last decade.

 “Last year we added some more staff, but even this year, once again our resources are getting pressed,” Christenson told the Daily in January.

Awarding the grant

On Friday, a committee of seven MSA volunteers met to evaluate Moen’s proposal and four other applications for the grant.

Besides Moen’s idea, proposals included a business selling student-designed cellphone cases, marketing efforts about the Aurora Center’s move to Appleby Hall, a world fair and a bronze statue of Goldy Gopher.

Drew Horwood, MSA speaker of forum, said the committee made their decision based on the potential impact of the project and the fact that it’s student-driven.

“I was impressed by Adam [Moen]’s passion,” Horwood said. “It was really clear that he has a deep connection to these issues, and he has a strong desire to help people.”

 He said Moen will receive the funding in installments over the next year and is required to update MSA periodically on the progress of the project.

This is the first year MSA has run the Improve U Grant program.

Before Moen applied for the grant, he already contacted the Provost’s Committee on Student Mental Health, the Aurora Center, University Counseling and Consulting Services, Boynton Health Service and many other organizations and administrators.

According to Moen’s proposal, he even “tailed” President Eric Kaler out of a meeting after he spoke at the Carlson School of Management and gave him a 45-second elevator pitch on the idea.

Moen said Kaler advised him to work closely with professionals at Boynton.

The funding from MSA will give him the extra push he needs to move the idea forward. When he heard about receiving the grant, Moen said he was ecstatic.

“It’s the difference between [the project] becoming a reality and not,” he said.