University kickstarts fall semester with new mental safety campaign

Mackenzie Blanton

Kent State has launched a new campaign to teach students, staff and faculty how to address mental health situations.

The “Step Up and Speak Out” campaign focuses on promoting the access to mental health hotlines and organizations on campus. The resources range from psychological services to suicide helplines.

Carrie Berta, psychologist with University Health Services, said the campaign is an effort to make students and faculty confident when helping those with emotional distress.

“We’re responsible for looking out for one another,” Berta said. “We want that to happen.”

Signs of possible distress

  • Marked change in performance/behavior
  • Excessive absence or tardiness
  • Trouble eating and/or sleeping
  • Undue aggressiveness
  • Exaggerated emotional reponse
  • Depressed or lethargic mood
  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
  • Marked change in personal hygiene
  • Excessive confusion
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Loss of contact with reality
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • References to suicide/death
  • References to homicide or assault
  • Isolation from friends, family, classmates
  • Giving away personal or prize possessions

The campaign includes services and ideas from Kent State Psychological Services, University Health Services, Police Services and the Office of the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.

It teaches students the warning signs of a distressed individual and how to handle distressed peers.

“A lot of the times you can offer support as a friend and that seems sufficient,” Berta said. “There are also times when you are concerned about someone and you want to do more than that.”

“Step Up and Speak Out” also reaches out to faculty by teaching them the warning signs of distressed students.

“We were receiving calls from faculty members who wanted to help a student but weren’t sure how,” Berta said.

Shay Little, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said warning signs for distressed students include excess absences and decreased grades, and peers don’t know how to help.

“I would often get a lot of calls asking ‘What should I do?’ or ‘Where should I go?’ ” Little said.

Little said she hopes the campaign will make the answers to these questions readily available for all students, faculty and staff.

For more information, on “Stand Up and Speak Out,” visit the campaign website at

Contact Mackenzie Blanton at [email protected].