Club raises mental health awareness through openness, outreach

Published 10.06.2022

Human Services & Restorative Justice
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Being responsive to community needs, Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Human Services and Restorative Justice Club hosted the first of a four-part Mental Health Discussion Series. More than 70 students, faculty and community members gathered for the event Monday evening in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium.

Three local professionals served as panelists: Brian J. Schurr, licensed psychologist, Central Keystone Counseling; Nicole J. Spring, chief public defender, Lycoming County; and Jeff Wheeler, assistant clinical director, White Deer Run of Allenwood, and a part-time psychology faculty member at Penn College.

Staffing the sign-in table outside the auditorium is Gabe F. Hockman, a freshman in human services & restorative justice from Bath. A line of students (many enrolled in psychology classes) extended out into the lobby and down the ACC steps. Richardson introduces the HSJ Club’s Executive Board and panelists to the audience.“This is our second year as an official student organization on campus and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support that we get from the campus itself and the community that surrounds us,” said Krystle J. Richardson, HSJ Club president and a senior in the human services & restorative justice major. “Last semester, after working with several organizations like the YWCA, Children and Youth Services, Old Lycoming Township Police and many others, we gained a lot of insight on the community needs. Something that everyone seems to talk about is the mental health issues we all face and how open discussion should be made as a pathway to educate students, educators, professionals and practitioners.”

During a stint as moderator, Little – alongside a green balloon symbolizing mental health – listens intently to panelists’ points.A service dog takes a rest on the auditorium floor.The first part of the series focused on a generalized population discussion on mental health and its surrounding issues and stigmas. The second part of the series will focus on children’s mental health. Set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 24, in the ACC Auditorium, panelists will be: Sue Alberti, executive director, Clear Vision Residential; Jennifer Cooley, school counselor, Loyalsock Township School District; and Jennifer Lake, founder and executive director, Dwell Orphan Care. In November, the HSJ Club’s third event will focus on mental health among the veteran population, and the fourth gathering is being finalized.

“I would personally like to extend my sincere thank you to all of the panelists who have been willing to dedicate personal time to making this cause beneficial and helping the HSJ Club raise awareness through discussion,” Richardson shared. “Mental health has become a topic that all people are becoming more aware of, rightfully so. Mental health doesn’t discriminate; it can affect anyone in any profession or setting. It is important we open discussion to open-minded individuals who are willing to be taught, willing to teach others, and willing to make the difference in ending the stigma and helping those in need of love and support the appropriate way.”

Panelists and the HSJ club members who spearheaded the event share a celebratory photo op at the conclusion of the evening. (Photo by Rob Cooley.)Wheeler shares his insights as Spring (center) and Schurr await additional questions. The HSJ Club president lauded the efforts of her fellow Executive Board members: Zakariah Jae, Cody R. Englehart, Jorden K. Graham and Kae A. Little, all human services & restorative justice students. She also gave a hearty shoutout to the support of faculty members Craig A. Miller, associate professor of history/political science; Sarah S. Moore, human services instructor; and Rob Cooley, associate professor of anthropology/environmental science. Miller has offered guidance for the Mental Health Discussion Series, and Moore and Cooley are club advisers.

Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor (unless otherwise noted)