Mental Health Ambassadors present for classes and organizations

Erin O'Neill, Reporter

Students interested in educating their peers about different aspects of mental health can now apply to become Mental Health Ambassadors.

The Mental Health Ambassadors are peer educators trained by Counseling Center staff to present on a variety of topics can be invited to present to classes, clubs and other organizations.

“It’s important to us to get out on campus and go to places where students are more regularly to try and make ourselves more approachable and maybe reach people before they even need to come in for counseling,” Mental Health Ambassadors co-coordinator Emily Lazar said.

Associate director and training director for the Counseling and Psychological Services Leslie Martin founded MHA in 2009. MHA consists of mostly undergraduate students who come from different majors and are passionate about decreasing the stigma around mental health.

The mission of the program is centered around educating people about mental health concerns and helping them improve their mental health, Martin said.

Martin explained she was inspired to create MHA when “there was a lot of research coming out about how students would rather hear from and learn from their peers than other adults.”

Mental Health Ambassadors became involved with outreach for the Counseling Center, and began educating their fellow students through presentations and events throughout the school year, such as Fall Festival and Mental Health Check-Up Day.

“Students want a space to be able to talk about mental health or get questions answered, and sometimes there can be a stigma around doing that, or they’re not even sure where to go first. A lot of times it can feel intimidating to go to a counseling center if you’ve never been before,” Lazar said.

Martin said she feels the presentations also help to build bridges between the Counseling Center and students. The presentations focus on Counseling Center services, stress management, healthy relationships, conflict management and suicide awareness.

“It’s really nice to be a part of a group that wants to inspire so many other people,” MHA president Carson Burleson said.

Burleson, senior religious studies and English major, said the group’s presentations make students more aware of the services available on campus.

“A lot of people aren’t even aware that there’s a counseling center, so it’s always good to get the word out,” Burleson said.

Michelle Hausman
Members of the Mental Health Ambassadors meet. According to Leslie Martin, the founder of MHA, is the mission of the club is, “centered around educating people about mental health concerns and helping them improve their mental health.”

Burleson also emphasized the importance of the presentations and how they can help educate others.

“People who may not be exposed to that information on a regular basis are just showing up for class, and they might learn something about how to help a friend or help themselves,” Burleson said.

Martin said by training individuals who are passionate about mental health to do some of their outreach presentations, they are able to focus on the people walking through the Counseling Center doors.

“Since we created it, every year we’ve had great groups of students and they’ve really taken on a lot of the requests that we get to do presentations,” Martin said.

Ambassadors themselves also benefit from the program. Martin said the ambassadors often report that MHA was one of the most rewarding experiences they had at App State.

“The ambassadors are doing all this great stuff for us, but I think they’re getting a lot back too,” Martin said.

For students interested in joining MHA, applications are due March 1. Applications can be found on the MHA webpage.