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Depression on College Campuses Conference

2010 Student Mental Health Advocate Award

To recognize outstanding student leadership in the area of campus mental health, the University of Michigan initiated the Student Mental Health Advocate Award in 2007. The undergraduate and graduate students who have been nominated from across the country have all made a significant impact in their campus communities by raising awareness of mental health issues, advocating for mental health services on campus, and helping to reduce the stigma of depressive illnesses.

Originally, students from the University of Michigan were not eligible to receive the award, in order to avoid any possible appearance of conflict of interest on the part of the conference planning committee members who select the award recipient. However, last year the committee decided to offer two categories for this award - one for students from the University of Michigan, and one for students from other schools – allowing us to honor student advocacy around the country as well as on our own campus, and we continued that tradition in 2010.

2010 Student Mental Health Advocate Award Recipients

Emily Cepla
Senior, University of Michigan
Major: Psychology Minor: Spanish Language

Emily Cepla is a senior at the University of Michigan, and has been advocating for student mental health awareness and support for the past two years. As one example, she successfully lobbied various university departments to obtain funding to put mental health resource packets in freshman orientation folders. Because of Emily, freshmen were able to find the help they needed with little trouble. Emily also organized the University of Michigan’s first annual Mental Health Awareness Day, where she brought together numerous university departments and student organizations on the main campus Diag to promote mental health awareness. Many students were not only able to find out where to get help, but were also able to gain new and valuable information about mental illness. As President of the student organization Finding Voice, Emily has worked tirelessly to show that students living with mental illness are no different than other students on campus. She is currently working to form panels of students with mental illnesses to speak to classrooms and residence halls about living with mental health disorders.

Emily has participated in many focus groups for the new University of Michigan Campus Mind Works website, and provided the site developers with advice for their “Student Voices” page. She has also volunteered to speak with high school students about her personal experience with depression as part of an educational collaboration between the Depression Center and the Ann Arbor Public Schools. In addition, Emily has been a member of the Depression on College Campuses Conference planning committee for the past two years, and has successfully increased awareness of the conference among U-M students and encouraged their attendance. Promoting mental health awareness is Emily’s passion, and I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.

Nominated by: Hanah Knopf, Student, University of Michigan


Rebecca (Becky) Gordon
Senior, Boston University
Major: Philosophy Minor: Political Science

When we read of the Student Mental Health Advocate award, we immediately thought of Ms. Rebecca (Becky) Gordon. Becky is a highly respected advocate at Boston University for her work in raising awareness of the mental health issues on campus, for her tireless efforts in reaching out to students and encouraging them to seek help if they are distressed, and for her self-disclosure of her own struggle with depression as a tool to promote hope that others can be helped on campus.

Becky is the Boston University Active Minds President, and after attending the national Active Minds conference she decided to bring the “Post Secret” project to BU. This is a huge undertaking which will potentially reach 29,000 students by encouraging them to anonymously write their secrets on postcards, and will provide a powerful visual story of student mental health issues as well as where to seek help on the BU campus. The project is scheduled to go forward this spring on a much larger scale than ever attempted before on a college campus.

Becky’s other projects include organizing a bake sale to raise funds for on-campus mental health projects, and participating in National Depression Screening Day. In addition, Becky has been central in Boston University’s recent campus suicide prevention grant efforts and will take a leadership role in developing a student support network. Becky also volunteered to be the face and voice of depression on a new BU website that highlights student issues and available resources. Her willingness to be “out” with her struggles is courageous and empowering.

Becky Gordon is a role model for students who live with mental health issues on campuses. Through her leadership, outreach, and advocacy, she is changing student lives at Boston University. We are proud to nominate her for this award.

Nominated by:
Margaret S. Ross, MD, Director, Behavioral Medicine, Student Health Services, Boston University
Dori S. Hutchinson, ScD, Director of Services, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University