Chapters help mental wellness

Fraternity houses aim to each have a member trained as a mental health advocate.

Keaton Schmitt

University of Minnesota greek life leaders are hoping to make mental health resources easier to access for fraternity and sorority members.
The Interfraternity Council — the body that governs the majority of fraternities on campus — is creating a new student task force made up of one member from each fraternity who will provide other members with information about mental health resources.
Each in-house task force member would direct any fellow members in emotional distress to the right locations for help.
Senior Teddy Skillings proposed the idea and said he hopes task force members will eventually be able to receive training from Student Counseling Services or Boynton Health Service
He said he wanted to help students struggling with mental health issues because they have impacted his own life.
“Even though my time at the University is close to an end, I want to establish something others can build on,” said Skillings, a member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.
The task force hopes to equip greek members with skills on how to deal with members’ problems, Skillings said, like transitioning to college or dealing with a mental illness.
Skillings approached JD Braun, the president of the IFC, last spring, and he helped connect him with other chapters.
“We thought it was a great effort and wanted to be as supportive as possible,” Braun said.
Glenn Hirsch, director of Student Counseling Services, said he also approves of the task force because it could help reduce students’ stress. 
“Students are often stretched very thin. The sheer volume of things students try to pack into their life is a stressor,” Hirsch said.
Many fraternity houses already have a health advocate, a student who lives in residence halls or greek houses and are certified in CPR and first aid. Those students are required to take a year-long course on health issues, said Julie Sanem, health advocate advisor.
Health advocates primarily focus on the physical issues of students and act as a resource hub for physical needs, she said.
“When things go bad, they can be the voice of reason,” said Jordan Abhold, a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, a senior health advocate and a teaching assistant for the course.
The new mental health task force would act in a complementary role to the health advocates, who only receive some training on mental health, Skillings said.
Task force members will meet once a month to discuss and learn about mental health concerns on campus.
Fourteen IFC chapters, nearly half of the fraternities on campus, as well as one sorority, were represented at the task force’s first meeting last week.
In the future, Skillings said he would like all IFC fraternities and Panhellenic sororities to take part in the task force.