Student campaign works to change views of mental health

A hand holding a green ribbon, a symbol of mental health.

Eighty-three percent of UO students responding to a survey said mental health is either “definitely” or “probably” an issue on campus, a number the new Ducks Change Together campaign is trying to lower.

UO public relations students developed the campaign as part of the Bateman Competition, a national contest run by the Public Relations Student Society of America. It tasks teams with putting together a campaign to promote a certain organization, and the 2017 competition paired with the Campaign to Change Direction, a group working to change the culture of mental health in America.

The Campaign to Change Direction focuses on teaching people what it calls the five signs of emotional suffering: personality change, feeling agitated, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness.

“The five signs have been really important in our campaign because it proposes a common language for people to start talking about mental health,” said Amanda Lam, a UO public relations student and a member of the Ducks Change Together team.

Ducks Change Together officially launched Feb. 15 and will run through March 15, when its pitch and results will be evaluated by the contest committee. If successful, three teams will be selected to present their ideas to representatives of the Campaign to Change Direction.

“We’re really trying to change the way people think and talk about mental health on campus,” Lam said. “Almost everyone struggles with it. We’ve done a lot of research, and it shows most people are either struggling with mental health or knows someone who is.” 

Aside from Lam, a junior, Ducks Change Together consists of seniors Casey Leach, Julia Hofmann, Ethan Dagenais and Noelle Accardi. They were chosen at the end of fall term and have worked all winter to prepare the campaign.

So far, Ducks Change Together has primarily focused on spreading awareness of the five signs. They’ve used Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and have been putting up advertisements around the Erb Memorial Union and handing out bumper stickers.

They have also worked with the Duck Nest to host events, including one that brought in therapy dogs so stressed-out students could play with them. The Duck Nest is a student wellness center in the EMU.

The purpose of the campaign is to get student pledges to learn the five signs and help change the campus culture surrounding mental health. Its goal is to get 40 group pledges, which would be around 10 percent of the ASUO clubs.

Unfortunately, the Bateman Competition has an end date, but Lam thinks Ducks Change Together has the potential to become a longer-lasting part of the UO campus.

“We have to end all our social media platforms and all our implementation on March 15,” Lam said. “But we’ve been partnering with the Duck Nest so that the resources are still there once we’re done.”

By Noah Ripley, University Communications