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Student Mental Health Advocate Awards

(L-R) Lindsay Orchowski, recipient of the first Student Award in 2007, Awardees Cooper Charlton and Jesse Dunn
, and Trish Meyer, Manager, Outreach and Education, U-M Depression Center.

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.

2016 Award Winners

Cooper Charlton

Senior, University of Michigan
Major: General Studies with a focus on Sociological Entrepreneurship

Cooper Charlton is a senior at the University of Michigan studying within the college of Literature, Science and the Arts. In 2014, Cooper co-founded Wolverine Support Network (WSN), a student organization that works to foster student connections and promote mental health through peer
facilitated support groups and bi-weekly social events. In a very short period of time, Cooper has helped to turn WSN from an idea into an organization that currently supports almost 200 students, and is still growing.

In addition to being the current executive director for Wolverine Support Network, Cooper is using his position as President of the Central Student Government to further destigmatize mental illness and bring awareness of mental wellness to the University of Michigan campus, through policy reforms and new initiatives. One such initiative was the planning of a firstever Mental Health Summit, which took place last semester. Leaders from a wide variety of student mental health organizations were invited to come together to meet each other, share ideas, and create collaborations to increase mental health awareness and acceptance on campus. As a result of the Summit, a new working group has been formed with representatives from all of the student mental health organizations, to ensure increased collaboration and coordination of efforts moving forward.

While Cooper’s leadership positions highlight his commitment to the destigmatization of mental illness, his daily interactions with others also illustrate how passionate he is about mental health. He is always cognizant of using inclusive language, pointing out to others when their words may be
contributing to a negative atmosphere around mental health, and he makes a genuine connection with all of the students and faculty with whom he interacts — always aware that everyone has something special to offer.

Cooper’s passion for promoting mental health is clear in all settings: professional, personal, and social. He is a constant reminder that the normalization of dialogue and action around mental health is possible by working together and supporting each other along the way.

Nominated by: Cheyenne Stone, Student, University of Michigan Class of 2016


Jesse Dunn

Senior, University of Portland
Major: Psychology

Jesse Dunn has permanently changed the culture and campus at the University of Portland. After a close friend and fellow student died by suicide in March 2015, Jesse was determined to ensure that every student on our campus knew they had a place to talk, to get help, and to feel valued. He
started by writing an editorial in our campus newspaper, then organized a standing room only event called “Let’s Talk” that brought students, faculty, staff, and our President together to discuss the state of mental health on campus, and to develop a plan to improve it.

Since that time, Jesse has become a renowned student leader who has been nominated for the “Gerhardt Award for Student Leadership,” which is a major campus award. He has collaborated with our counseling office on a variety of projects, and most notably helped to successfully advocate for an additional counseling staff member. He has developed and collaborated on a dozen novel programs and initiatives, and also founded an Active Minds chapter which has instantly become one of the largest and most visible groups on campus. Jesse’s work has been so impressive that he was featured in the Oregonian — the major newspaper of Portland, Oregon — and he has somehow done this while teaching rock climbing and mindfulness classes on campus, and staying in good academic standing. Jesse is presently applying to graduate programs, and plans to pursue a career in counseling.

The most special thing about Jesse isn’t the quantity of programs and concrete changes he has made for our school, it is the way he has done it. His ability to bring people together, to share in his positivity and hope, and stay focused on common goals is exceptional. Jesse is a delightful, open-minded, and graceful human, and is a rare natural leader who has the wellbeing of others at the center of his heart.

Nominated by: Will Meek, PhD, Assistant Director of Counseling & Training, University of