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Oak Leaves

March 3, 2017

Professors Help Students Understand Mental Health


Ciara Knisely

Manchester University Professors Dr. Cheri Krueckenberg, Dr. Brad Yoder, Dr. Rusty Coulter-Kern and Dr. David Johnson organized this year’s Discussion Day in order to present information to students on mental health. 

They began organizing the event last spring, at which point they needed to select this year’s topic. Dr. Cheri Krueckenberg, Associate Professor of Social Work, acted as Committee Chair to bring the event together, and mental health is clearly a subject about which she is passionate. 

After working for 25 years in social services, Krueckenberg states that she’s convinced that society doesn’t work hard enough to alleviate suffering in the world. “If we can put people on the moon, we can do more for mental health issues,” she says. 

The stigmas surrounding mental health issues are fading, but Krueckenberg believes there is still more work to be done. She expresses that recovery is a long road, but that it’s important to find ways to improve and cope. 

Understanding mental illness also involves a lot of compassion, says Krueckenberg. She hopes that this year’s topic will help participants gain the wisdom, knowledge, and tools to deal with and respond to suffering—but compassion is also necessary to reach a place of healing. 

Dr. Rusty Coulter-Kern, Professor of Psychology, reiterates the importance of this topic, as it affects a great number of people. “Chances are we all know somebody affected by mental illness,” Coulter-Kern says.

Because mental illnesses have become such common afflictions, it’s important to focus on causes, but also solutions. “Regardless of challenges people face, there are strategies and ways we can change to live happier, healthier lives,” Coulter-Kern communicates. 

“If your life is affected by it, try to find what ways are out there to improve your condition or others,” Krueckenberg says. She suggests that, even in the most difficult of situations, there are always solutions and that no one should be excluded. 

Dr. Brad Yoder, Professor of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice, says that people are gradually becoming more open-minded when talking about mental illnesses. He looks back in history to when these illnesses were correlated with the moon and evil spirits, and acknowledges that we’ve come a long way to now, where mental illnesses are understood more scientifically. 

In response to any stigmas surrounding mental illness, Dr. David Johnson, Assistant Professor of Psychology, says that more people are now willing to talk about their experiences. “It’s no different than any physical illness,” Johnson states. 

Similarly, Yoder expresses that, as concerned citizens, we should be educated about whatever needs individuals may have, and that this Discussion Day should help people learn more about who they are as a whole person. Yoder hopes that this day will encourage a more welcoming atmosphere when opening up about mental illnesses.  


Johnson adds that education on mental health is especially important for younger adults, “as most major illnesses emerge around adolescence.” And, as no one is immune to mental illness, it is important for students to understand the warning signs and educate themselves on the topic. 

“If it's an idea they haven't been exposed to, it may inspire them to explore, or understand themselves and others better,” Johnson says.