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'Shine A Light on Mental Health' 

Jan. 22 Event in Lynn Eusan Park Focuses on Educating Campus Community on Services and Strategies

Jan. 15 — The UH College of Pharmacy-organized "Shine A Light on Mental Health" from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, in UH's Lynn Eusan Park is aimed at raising the campus community's awareness of available mental health resources and services as well as self-care strategies and techniques for reducing stress, anxiety and other challenges that may be encountered during students' educational experience. 

"By providing more resources, education, and advocacy, we hope to further support our students' next steps on their journey of wellness," said UHCOP's Austin De La Cruz, Pharm.D., BCPPP, clinical assistant professor and board-certified psychiatric pharmacotherapy specialist. 

De La Cruz, a member of the UHCOP Student Wellness Advisory Council comprising faculty and students, said timing the event at the beginning of the spring semester was intentional to ensure students are aware of the resources available in advance of any mental health challenges that may arise over the coming months. 

"We are in the midst of an ongoing mental health epidemic that receives little attention, despite the fact that it affects nearly 1 in 5 American adults," De La Cruz said. "Additionally, mood and anxiety disorders are very common among college-aged individuals. We hope that this health fair will motivate students to fully utilize the resources and services that are available to them here at UH and outside of our institution that are designed to help them receive the mental health care they need and deserve.

"Through all of our collaborative efforts to reduce the stigma associated with mental health disorders, we hope to empower students to manage their own health appropriately and encourage their peers to reach out to someone if they have a mental health concern."

UH entities and organizations participating in the event include UH's Department of Health and Human Performance, Department of Psychology's Trauma and Stress Studies Center, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Psychiatry Clinic, Dean of Students Office, LGBTQ Resource Center and UH Wellness (part of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services), as well as the UHCOP chapters of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists, Student College of Clinical Pharmacy, and Student National Pharmaceutical Association.

External participants include the Peace of Mind Foundation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America - Greater Houston, and NAMI - Greater Houston.

Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to have a direct, positive impact on a patient's mental health care, De La Cruz said.

"Pharmacists assist patients through medication counseling, screening, and by listening and addressing the patient’s primary concerns," De La Cruz said. "Also, patients visit their local pharmacies quite frequently and pharmacists may be one of the few healthcare providers who can identify symptoms through direct conversation or observation. The role of pharmacists in mental health spans a variety of healthcare settings and all pharmacists have the potential to make a significant impact on their patient’s lives."