Southern’s new club spreads mental health awareness on campus

Missouri Southern State University students Haylee Pyburn and Christine Ibeagi recognized a lack of mental health resources at the university and decided to do something about it.

Ibeagi met with Project Stay Director, Debbie Fort, about the lack of resources for students struggling with mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three days later, Pyburn came into Fort’s office to discuss the same problem.

Fort told Pyburn she had been approached by another student with the same concerns and they should meet each other.

After Fort shared Ibeagi and Pyburn’s contact information with the other, they met over coffee and decided they wanted to start a club. They co-founded Missouri Southern’s new club Real-About Wellbeing, or RAW.  

RAW was created to provide a healthy outlet for students who struggle with mental health. “If you have a broken arm you go to the doctor. If you have depression or anxiety or other mental health problems, you go to a doctor,” said the club’s advisor Debbie Fort.

Pyburn and Ibeagi wanted to help people or direct people to someone who can help them.

According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, 95% of college campus counselors say there is a growing concern with serious mental health issues among college students. They also found that 41.6% of students struggle with anxiety and 36.4% with depression.

To try and lessen the struggle of mental health problems on their campus, Ibeagi and Pyburn were driven to do something. “They are really focused on the stigma of mental health,” said Fort.

They are trying to provide a safe place for students to come and talk about their struggles.  

Pyburn and Ibeagi started by creating pages on Instagram and Facebook to post about their meetings and different things they would be focusing on during the meetings. They printed posters to hang up and hand out everywhere. Even their professors were posting in their Blackboard classes to help promote the club.

To encourage student involvement, RAW hosted a raffle of a “self-care basket.” To enter, students signed up for RAW’s email reminders.

Other organizations and clubs on campus and within the community paired with RAW to help them get off the ground. RAW collaborated with Project Stay on campus, the Joplin Coalition, and other independent donors through their GoFundMe account.

RAW has been partnering with different organizations and programs on and off campus. Most recently they paired up with Student Senate to create mental health week on campus.

During mental health week, between April 26-30, these two organizations hosted a different event every day of the week. Monday was a mental health panel, Tuesday had dogs on the oval, Wednesday was good vibes gardening, Thursday Southern’s jazz band performed, and Friday was pleasant painting.

This is only RAW’s second semester as a club and Pyburn said she was astounded at the difference they have been able to make with people in their club as well as others in the community.

Everyone involved said RAW has surpassed their expectations. Especially for Fort who has tried to start a similar club herself several years ago. Fort struggled to get her club off the ground. “It doesn’t gain traction unless you have student involvement,” Fort said.

Fort gives props to Pyburn and Ibeagi for being so motivated and passionate.

As someone who struggled with her mental health, Pyburn has found “a sense of purpose,” within this club and realize that she can make a difference in the community. “If I can help others, I can help myself,” Pyburn said.