York College students reach out to Hispanic community

Alyssa Pressler
  • A group of York College students is running a mental-health campaign for the Hispanic community.
  • The Hispanic community is less likely to seek professional help for mental illness.
  • Students are running the campaign as part of a national competition.

Research shows members of the Hispanic community aren't always willing to seek professional help for mental health issues, which is why a group of York College students decided to target that specific demographic with a social media campaign.

York College students, from left, Heidi Lineweaver, Carissa McQuade, Alexander Iula, Haley Keller and Lauren Milliken pose behind a table of materials for their mental health campaign at the Door of Salvation Church on Sunday, March 12, 2017.

Five students from York College are running the campaign for the Campaign to Change Direction, a national organization that provides education and outreach tools for those looking to learn more about emotional suffering. They're doing so as a part of the Public Relations Student Society of America's 2017 Bateman Case Study Competition.

Through the competition, student groups across the nation run a social media campaign for one organization — this year being the Campaign to Change Direction. They are judged on how well they run the campaign, which must include a public event. Students ran their campaigns from Feb. 15 to March 15.

Now the students must submit a report to the 2017 Bateman Case Study Competition with the details of their campaign and the research they completed. Ultimately, winners are chosen and attend a conference, according to Alexander Iula, a York College senior studying hospitality management who is involved in the campaign.

The Hispanic community: One of the requirements for the competition involves picking a target audience. Iula said a lot of the other students they compete against end up choosing their college campus because it's easiest.

After talking about it for some time, the local students decided they didn't want to take the easy way out. They wanted to build a lasting social media campaign that would reach people in York City.

After talking with local groups including WellSpan, Family First Health and the York City Bureau of Health, they realized there was a group of people within York City that might need this campaign more than others: the Hispanic community.

"We met with a lot of different committees and community leaders, and they showed there was a need for this in that community," said public relations senior Lauren Milliken. "That community isn't as likely to seek help for mental health."

According to Shannon McElroy, a marketing and outreach coordinator for Family First Health who worked closely with the York College team, the students are on the right track. She said the Hispanic population is less likely as a whole to reach out to professionals for mental health, which she believes is related to the culture.

"They seem to want to take care of their behavioral health issues within their family scope rather than reaching out to a professional for help," she said. "It's ingrained in families that if you have to see someone for your mental health you're 'crazy,' and that you shouldn't have issues with that."

However, both McElroy and the students running the campaign say that might not be the best approach, which is why they targeted the Campaign to Change Direction to the Hispanic population.

McElroy explained that just like when you are physically ill and you go to a doctor, sometimes the best way to get healthy mentally is to see a professional.

"People need to see their mental health as an extension of their physical health," she said.

The campaign: The students reached out to the Hispanic community through specific social media posts on the Family First Health Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as with a March 12 event at the Door of Salvation Church in York City.

While at the church, the students stood at a table with materials and talked with people about mental health and what they could do to end the stigma surrounding it, particularly in the Hispanic community.

"We found in our research the population was most likely to turn to faith when it came to mental health, but sometimes more is needed," said Milliken. "That's why the event was held after church services."

Through their campaign, Iula said, they needed to try to educate people on the five signs someone is in emotional pain: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness. They also need to encourage people to take the Campaign to Change Direction Pledge, which asks people to know the five signs and help change the culture around mental health.

"We use social media to educate people on identifiers, what they can do and local and national resources," Iula said.

Though the students' role in the campaign is almost finished, McElroy said Family First Health will continue the work through social media. She said she's seen a good amount of engagement with the social media posts so far.

And the students will be glad to see the campaign continue. Haley Keller, a junior public relations student involved in the campaign, said she thinks the work the Campaign to Change Direction is doing is important, which is why she enjoyed working on the project.

"I think it's important to know the five signs," she said. "A lot of times, emotional suffering can fall through the cracks."