Eastern Michigan University's new visual podcast, “Enlighten U, " is addressing students' mental health. The first episode, aired on Sept. 15, can be found on all major platforms including EMU’s YouTube channel.
Around America, students in every educational institution are facing a mental health crisis, according to mental health professionals.
“Everyone here at EMU, beginning with President James Smith, is concerned about the mental health of our students,” public relations professor and “Enlighten U” co-host, Lolita Cummings, said in a written statement. “We know from research that now, more than ever, students are entering college while struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. We cannot sit idly by and watch them suffer. ‘Enlighten U’ is one of the many services EMU offers its students.”
The idea for the podcast began three years prior to the first episode’s release. It took an intensive amount of planning to get the project started.
"A former public relations student, Lexie Stypelkoski, and I began talking one day about the mental health crisis among our students and what we could do to help,“ Cummings said. "From there, the podcast idea formed, and I've been working on it ever since. After Lexie graduated, my co-host and EMU's executive director for media relations and social media, Melissa Thrasher, and I connected and resumed the work. Everyone knew it was a worthwhile idea, but like so many other projects, funding was hard to come by. Eventually, that piece came through and we began the intensive planning and implementation during the summer."
Every month, an EMU student sits down with two co-hosts and a noted mental health professional on the podcast. The student then shares their mental health journey, receiving insight, strategies, and resources on how to deal with their mental health.
“We're all very excited about 'Enlighten U,' as it was created specifically to address student mental health issues,” Cummings said. “Every month, we feature a different area affecting students such as financial strain, adulting, social media harm, balancing school and work, social justice and more.”
The podcast’s first episode put a spotlight on anxiety and depression. Cummings and Melissa Thrasher, EMU’s executive director of media relations and social media, welcomed Perry Francis, ED.d., along with sisters, Jessica and Jaida Turner to the podcast set. Dr. Francis is an EMU counseling professor and a nationally certified counselor, while Jessica and Jaida are sisters, singers and EMU students.
The first episode opens with the Turner sisters singing a song and music video they created for the podcast. They were asked to do so after creating a different song, “Black Diamond." The song addressed mental health at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two sisters also discussed their experiences when dealing with anxiety. As the episode progressed, Dr. Francis offered coping mechanisms with them and all of the viewers.
“Participating in the first episode of the podcast was a wonderful experience,” Jessica Turner said. "The mental health advice was really encouraging. I believe this podcast will be really beneficial to other students as well."
Future episodes of “Enlighten U” will address topics such as the LGBTQ+ community, relationships, adulting, imposter syndrome, financial strain, grading anxiety, adjustment to campus life, social media harms, social justice, and more.
New episodes will air on the 15th of each month. The next episode is set to air on Oct. 15.
“The episode that will drop on Oct. 15 will feature Baddie Brooks, a former student and musician who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” Cummings said. “These podcasts are important as they allow students to hear from other students and know they are not alone.”
For more information about “Enlighten U,” contact Lolita Cummings at firstname.lastname@example.org and Melissa Thrasher at email@example.com. Email messages can also be sent to Enlighten_U@emich.edu. “Enlighten U” is available on all major podcast streaming services and EMU’s YouTube channel.