Students empowered to erase stigma, embrace self care during Mental Health Week

Contact: Erin Flynn
Two students pet a fluffy brown and white therapy dog that is laying on the ground.

A broad spectrum of events are planned for Mental Health Week including opportunities for students to interact with therapy dogs.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Be kind to your mind. That's the message for the Western Michigan University campus community as the Western Student Association (WSA), in partnership with the Campus Activities Board, hosts Mental Health Week Feb. 19-23

Students practice yoga.

Students can de-stress and focus on both physical and mental well-being at yoga hosted by the Student Recreation Center.

"It's traditionally the week before midterms to help students relax and also get to know the resources available on campus," says Lynn Loo, a finance and business analytics student and WSA's executive officer for student affairs. "We'll have stress relief presentations to learn about methods to relax and understand yourself better and understand the different ways to help you manage stress." 

The biannual, student-led initiative involves a series of events ranging from group fitness classes and board game gatherings to wellness coaching and art breaks. The goal, Loo says, is to offer something for everyone and make activities available across a variety of spaces, including locations on Main Campus, East Campus, the Parkview Campus and the College of Aviation in Battle Creek. 

"It's about education, relaxation and fun," Loo says. Well-being challenge cards will be available to encourage students to get engaged with Mental Health Week; they will receive stamps at each event and can turn cards in for prizes.

A full schedule of Mental Health Week events and more information is available on the WSA webpage.


In addition to several Registered Student Organizations hosting events, trained mental health peer educators from Western's Office of Health Promotion and Education are also getting involved in Mental Health Week. They have organized relaxation stations and created prompts on social media for students who would rather participate remotely.

A student sits on the ground playing a guitar.

Cass Davis plays the guitar in front of a table hosted by mental health peer educators from the Office of Health Promotion and Education at a recent campus event.

"It's important to prioritize mental health because it helps you build community and helps you connect to people on a deeper level without stigma and bias," says Cass Davis, a music therapy student and mental health peer educator.

"(Our generation) is living through so many historic events, like COVID, and I feel like people are being more open than they were before about mental health. So, to have a safe space where you can come and talk about those topics with other people is good for everyone," adds Ava Sauer, a gender and women's studies student and mental health peer educator.

Students are also invited to explore the Common Ground, a space in Sindecuse Health Center open year-round to connect with peer educators and be authentically themselves. 

"The Common Ground is a place where you can just come and be you, and there is no expectation," says Davis, who helped create the space last year. "You are able to sit and cry or sit and play the piano or sit and play the ukelele … or color a coloring page. It's truly been a blessing in my college experience. It's really helped frame what belonging looks like for me on campus. I feel important when I walk through these doors. I feel like I matter, and I feel like everyone deserves to feel that way."


A commitment to mental health and ensuring students and all members of the Western community thrive in all aspects of their lives is a driving force at the University. Prioritizing well-being is among the key priorities highlighted in WMU's most recent strategic plan, and it is embedded in several initiatives across campus.

Western was among the first 25 universities in the country to adopt the Okanagan Charter, an international framework to embed health into all aspects of campus culture. Nearly 400 students, faculty and staff attended a signing event at the WMU Student Center, declaring their commitment to well-being.

A student sits in a chair and reads.

A student relaxes at the Mind Spa.

The University offers an array of well-being support services to students, including:

  •  Counseling Services, where students can engage with counselors to help identify challenges and make changes to manage emotional and social difficulties.

  • The Office of Health Promotion and Education, where students can engage with health educators and nationally certified peer educators focused on prevention and support.

  • Sindecuse Health Center, where students have access to a full range of high-quality professional health services and the Mind Spa, a space designed to help Broncos develop and practice relaxation skills to enhance their academic productivity and sense of well-being.

  • Uwill, which offers free access to personalized mental health services through teletherapy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • WellTrack Boost, a free online self-help resource to track well-being.

  • YOU at Western, a personalized web portal aimed at allowing students to be more proactive about health and well-being.

"Holistic health is important in general, but by Western focusing on the whole human, the University gets to say we are offering the chance for our students to look within and figure out where their purpose lies, who they are as human beings," says Janay Christian, assistant director of mental well-being at Western. "We show them that we see them, we hear them, and we want to meet them where they are."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.