Colorado School of Mines

Mental health in the spotlight at Mines

High expectations, pressure can lead to struggles

Posted 10/31/17

Colorado School of Mines is an elite school — its students are high performers.

But that comes along with high expectations and high stress, said Karyn Burry, a senior studying chemical and biochemical engineering who is the president of …

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Colorado School of Mines

Mental health in the spotlight at Mines

High expectations, pressure can lead to struggles

Posted

Colorado School of Mines is an elite school — its students are high performers.

But that comes along with high expectations and high stress, said Karyn Burry, a senior studying chemical and biochemical engineering who is the president of Mines’ chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. For some, it could easily become too much to handle, she said, which could lead to mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts.

And because Mines students have always been high performers throughout their academic careers, they could view mental illness as a flaw, Burry said.

But it shouldn’t be.

“The topic is very understandable,” Burry said. “It’s a subject a lot of people have been affected by.”

So to help, Mines’ chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national coeducational service fraternity, for its National Service Week project, is putting on a series of events that focus on suicide prevention. The events are open to both students and the greater community.

“Hiding doesn’t help these issues,” Burry said. “But talking about it, and the stigma associated with it, can help.”

Alpha Phi Omega’s National Service Week takes place every year during the first week of November. A new theme is chosen every two years, and all of the fraternity’s chapters nationwide put on a week of service events surrounding the two-year theme. The 2017 and 2018 theme is suicide prevention and awareness. This year, the fraternity will focus primarily on the campus community, and next year on the greater Golden community.

This year’s events take place Nov. 6-10, in various locations on the Mines campus.

Mines is fortunate that suicide is not currently a common occurrence among its students, said Mines’ Dean of Students Derek Morgan. Although, he added, there has been a steady increase in the number of students facing anxiety and depression.

The school’s faculty and staff do a good job of getting assistance and support to students who are struggling or in crisis “once we are aware” of the issue, Morgan said. “However, I believe there are many students that struggle in silence, afraid to talk to anyone about the feelings they are experiencing.”

National Service Week Chair Peter Weddle, a mechanical engineering PhD student, hopes National Service Week can be a proactive approach to implementing suicide prevention and awareness more permanently on campus, he said.

“We can make a significant change to Mines culture,” Weddle said. “I think a lot of people care about this issue — this particular theme has resonated with the fraternity. It hits home when it relates to people we know.”

The students have done an incredible job collaborating with, and forming partnerships with, the entire campus community to put on these events, said Kathryn Whitfield, a co-advisory chair along with Korbie Perkins for Mines’ chapter of Alpha Phi Omega.

“They got really excited about the theme because they feel suicide prevention is an under-addressed issue on the Mines campus. They recognized the importance of the issue,” Whitfield said, “and they’re not shying away just because it’s a difficult topic.”

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