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Student Mental Health Advocate Awards

Awardees Ashli Haggard (L) and Siang-Chean (Sean) Kua (R), with Chamique Holdsclaw
, Former WNBA star and Olympic Gold Medalist, who presented the awards.

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.

2015 Award Winners

Ashli Haggard

Senior, University of Maryland, College Park
Major: Community Health

It is my honor to nominate Ashli Haggard for the Student Mental Health Advocate Award. As an Active Minds chapter board member and sexual violence peer educator, Ashli has helped better align mental and sexual health resources and communications on the University of Maryland campus, ensuring that students are provided a clear and consistent message on where to find help.

Working closely with the University Health Center’s peer education groups, Ashli helped to integrate mental health into the peer workshop structure and curriculum. She researched and provided information on the mental health resources available on and off campus, and developed three presentations on depression and suicide, cognitive behavioral therapy, and stress management, which are now a part of the HEALTHWorks peer education curriculum.

Additionally, during the 2013-2014 academic year, she initiated bi-weekly meetings with a campus social worker, animal assisted therapist, and the head of the mental health department of the Health Center to discuss gaps in mental and sexual health education, and how to convey a consistent message across all mental health resources on campus. All peer groups meet for 90 minutes each week to ensure that departments, services, and student organizations refer students for help in a consistent manner.  

Ashli regularly shares her personal experiences with other students through the local and campus media, describing her own struggles with mental health concerns and how she accessed support services. She has collaborated on a series of articles in the student newspaper, as well as petitions to the University to expand mental health resources on campus. As a result of these actions, in fall 2014 the University hired two new therapists and a new mental health nurse practitioner. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of Ashli and her Active Minds chapter, the University is now recognizing mental health as an important issue and allocating $5 million in funds to expand mental health resources over the next ten years.

Ashli is also a mental health advocate on the national level. Ashli is currently the President of Active Minds’ Student Advisory Committee, leading 11 other college students from around the country in providing the student voice for mental health, and contributing her story to the Active Minds blog. Ashli is a strong voice for advocacy and change, a true inspiration, and would be a most deserving recipient of the Student Mental Health Advocate Award.

Nominated by:
Laura Horne, MPH, CHES, Chapter Manager, Active Minds, Inc.


Siang-Chean (Sean) Kua

Senior, University of Michigan
Major: Neuroscience

It is my pleasure to nominate Sean Kua for the Student Mental Health Advocate Award. Sean has demonstrated an interest in and commitment to mental health issues throughout his time as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. Sean’s interest in mental health advocacy largely began after volunteering in the inpatient psychiatry unit of the University of Michigan hospital during his sophomore year. Realizing that a significant number of students faced obstacles related to their mental health, he began to direct his efforts towards advocating for greater awareness of the mental health needs of the student body.

To this end, Sean is currently involved in a number of mental health efforts on campus. He is a member of the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Student Advisory Board, where he provides a student’s voice and input on how the CAPS programs can better reach students on campus who may be struggling with mental health concerns. Sean is also a co-founder and the campus liaison for the newly established chapter of Active Minds at the University of Michigan. Active Minds is a student-led group that aims to foster a healthier mental health climate on campus through de-stigmatization of mental illness, and connecting students to resources. Thanks to Sean, the Active Minds organization has already established strong connections with the university overall, and in particular with the various mental health-related groups on campus. Through Sean’s efforts, Active Minds is now collaborating with many different groups to promote our common mission – supporting the mental health of our students.

Sean is also part of the Healthy Minds Student Leadership Coalition, where he represents both CAPS and Active Minds. The purpose of the Healthy Minds Coalition is to harness technology and social media to create a healthier mental health climate on campus, and ultimately, at a global level. As a member of this coalition, Sean extends his contributions on campus to a much larger scale.

Finally, Sean has been a member of the Depression on College Campuses Conference Planning Committee since his sophomore year, once again providing the student perspective to help the conference reach students and connect them with relevant information to help improve their mental health and well-being.

As you can see, Sean has dedicated himself to the mission of mental health advocacy on campus through a wide range of extra-curricular activities, while at the same time pursuing his undergraduate degree in neuroscience. I cannot think of a more deserving individual to receive the Student Mental Health Advocate Award.

Nominated by:
Lawrence Tello