This past Monday April 5, Utah Valley University opened its doors to host the first annual mental health symposium.

The symposium was held in an effort to raise awareness about the growing trend of mental difficulties seen in university students throughout the state of Utah. An estimated 500 or so UVU students and members of the general public were treated to presentations on ailments such as adult ADHD, substance abuse, autism, spectrum disorder, suicides, mood disorders and addictions.

UVU Suicide Prevention Coordinator J.C. Graham mentioned some disheartening statistics in an on-site interview with Jennifer Napier-Pearce of KUER News.  According to reports eight UVU students committed suicide in 2003, that number is 400 times the national average. Though mental health struggles remain under the radar for the most part, experts say it’s important to understand the issue at hand.

“It’s not happy valley,” said UVU Dean of College of Humanities and Social Science David Yells. “There are still people that are in quite a bit of denial about things such as substance abuse, depression and suicide. The main goal of this symposium was to raise awareness about some of these mental health issues.”

The University continues its efforts to expand counseling services so that the needs of the growing student body can be met. With only four counselors to support the whole campus, UVU students often have to wait up to three weeks for a counseling appointment.

“Mental illness struggles are an issue everywhere, and we have our share at UVU,” said UVU Director of Psychological Services Dr. Jack Jensen. “University counseling centers around the nation are experiencing a large increase in demand for services because the issues are severe and become barriers to success.”

While an increase in the number of counselors is not yet determined, UVU has decided to continue yearly mental health symposiums to raise awareness. The next symposium is planned for April 2011 and will be focused solely on autism.