Oct. 8, 2020
Chris Woodley • firstname.lastname@example.org
According to student surveys in 2018 and 2019 conducted by the American College Health Association, 60% of respondents felt “overwhelming” anxiety and 40% experienced severe depressions. While COVID-19 and other factors at campuses nationwide have increased stress and anxiety, a Bachelor of Social Work senior has dedicated herself to helping others with mental health issues.
Jenna Cameron, BSW ’21, is an advocate for mental health and self-care throughout the University of South Carolina. Her interest in helping others came from her own experiences.
“I had symptoms of depression and anxiety when I was in high school and didn't have any good coping mechanisms,” Cameron says. “When I came to college and learned more about myself, I still had some of the same symptoms, but I was able to seek help.”
Cameron was a freshman when she joined Changing Carolina Peer Leaders. The group of undergraduate leaders from a variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines have a passion for wellness and health education. She attended a three-credit hour class to learn how to approach different health topics with strangers and students in classes where peer leaders presented. Cameron became involved in the mental health special interest group and was the mental health chair last year.
“Things are different now because of COVID-19, but in the past, we set up tables on Greene Street and organized events to engage people in different mental health topics,” Cameron says. “For example, we had people make a body scrub and talk about the importance of self-care and interact with others. We also presented in U101 classes (for freshman). I gave presentations on healthy relationships, communication and consent, and was just recently trained for an introduction to mindfulness presentation.”
Cameron is also a mental health ambassador, a grant-funded initiative sponsored by the Student Health Services Mental Health Initiatives department. The initiative started last year and trains students to give them with the skills to effectively facilitate open conversations about mental health.
“The focus is developing and verbalizing our own mental health stories,” Cameron says. “We've been working and practicing on how to talk about these topics so we can go into classrooms, present our stories, and provide mental health support and resources on campus.
My mental health experiences gave me a better understanding of those issues and the ability to help others who are struggling. It also helped me become more open about talking about these issues.”
The online magazine Her Campus also provided Cameron with the opportunity to share her mental health story with a greater audience this past February. The publication is targeted at the female college student demographic, and Cameron is one of more than 7,000 contributors.
“I was editor-in-chief of my high school’s literary magazine and was interested when I saw Her Campus at an organization fair,” Cameron says. “Writing about mental health is the easiest for me and the most beneficial for others. I knew it would be emotionally difficult to talk about my mental health story but writing it out is helpful. I received a lot of positive feedback from people who read my story and were inspired to seek help. It was powerful to know that so many others were reading my story.”
Cameron aspires to work as a counselor in the criminal justice or juvenile justice system. But for now, she wants to continue sharing her story, and supporting and encouraging others with mental health struggles. She also stresses the importance of people advocating for themselves.
“You are the one who knows what you are going through, so it’s important to find a method that works best for you,” Cameron says. “A counselor or therapist will not have a magical cure. You need to try different options until finding one that works because there are so many choices. It can be frustrating to reach a point where you need help and not see any benefits.”