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2018 DOCC Conference

Student Mental Health Advocate Awards

(L-R) Stephanie Salazar, Manager, Outreach and Education, U-M Depression Center; Awardee Samuel Orley, University of Michigan; Megan Larson, UCLA; Sonia Doshi, emcee; Dr. John Greden, Executive Director, 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.

2018 Award Winners

Samuel Orley

Senior, University of Michigan
Major: Business Administration

Sam Orley is a Senior at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and the Executive Director of Wolverine Support Network (WSN), one of the nations' first collegiate peer-to-peer support models. Sam, along with his sister, parents, and family friend Linda Aikens, helped to create the George Orley Mental Wellness Initiative in memory of Sam's brother, George, who died by suicide at age 20.

In Sam’s 4 years with WSN, he has helped it grow to 30 support groups with over 500 student members. Sam is a tireless force behind WSN, working to recruit new members and group leaders, organize trainings, and serve as a role model for reducing stigma around mental health. It is clear that Sam has a passion for raising awareness of the unique issues related to mental health on campus, and in forwarding the peer-to-peer mission of WSN. Sam has played a key role in helping to expand the work of WSN to other high schools and universities across the country. It's obvious in working with Sam that WSN is so much more than a student organization. It is truly a family of students who work collaboratively to destigmatize mental health issues and help students find multiple avenues to seek help and support. He is inspiring students to see help-seeking as a strength, and mental health and well-being as a holistic pursuit that no one can do alone.

In short, Sam is a dedicated and passionate advocate for transforming social norms and improving the mental health of his peers. Sam’s willingness and enthusiasm, to develop WSN into a program serving hundreds of U of M students, and to serve as a role-model on the importance of peer support and mental wellness are the perfect embodiment of what it means to be Leaders and Best at Michigan.

Nominated by: Nancy Davis, Director of Development, Michigan Medicine; Luke Henke, PsyD, Coordinator of Peer Initiatives, Staff Psychologist; Jordan Lazarus, Undergraduate Student;
Joy Pehlke, MEd, Health Educator & Wellness Coach, Wolverine Wellness; Cheyenne Stone


Megan Larson

Senior, UCLA
Major: Biology/Study of Religion

Megan Larson is an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in Biology and the Study of Religion. Megan is a passionate leader of mental health advocacy on her campus. She is most well-known for the co-creation of the Mind Your Mind coloring books. These remarkable coloring books combined the trendiness of adult coloring as a self-care practice, with awareness building about mental health. Each page turn reveals a piece of art created by Megan or another UCLA student that represents a different mental illness. On one side of the page, people can color in the artwork, and on the other, they will read about different mental illnesses. The popular coloring book was sold all over campus, bringing awareness to mental health while raising money for the Active Minds national mental health movement. Because of this coloring book, Active Minds at UCLA was one of the highest achieving fundraising chapters in the nation.

In addition to the coloring book, Megan is the co-creator of the phrase VAR: Validate, Affirm, Refer. The phrase was coined in response to Megan and a co-leader’s realization that they are often approached by peers who express everyday mental health struggles and didn’t always know how to respond. VAR empowers students to respond to their peers' everyday struggles effectively and productively.

Megan is a strong and compassionate leader among her peers in the arena of mental health and social justice.

Nominated by: Rebecca Fein, MPH, California Statewide Program Manager, Active Minds