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APSU’s annual Poli-Talk discusses mental health in university life

By: Spencer Castleberry November 15, 2023

APSU's 2019 Poli-Talk discussion panel.
APSU's 2019 Poli-Talk discussion panel.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Austin Peay State University’s (APSU) annual Poli-Talk event allows students to connect with leaders from the community to discuss important topics, and this year's event focused on mental health in university life.

The speakers at Poli-Talk included Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, as well as members of Austin Peay’s faculty and staff. The President’s Emerging Leaders Program (PELP) put together the event and prepared questions for the panel of guests to answer. Each guest had approximately three minutes to answer questions regarding mental health on the University and community level.

Dr. Leonard E. Clemons, Austin Peay’s vice president of Student Affairs, also took the time to encourage students who may be struggling with their mental health.

“You're here in college, in the leadership program at Austin Peay State University,” he said. “You are enough. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like it when in the middle of it. But you are actively pursuing your goals and achieving your dreams.”

The questions ranged from mental health for faculty and students to plans for improving the status quo. Sophomore PELP member Tyler Rose moderated the event, asking questions and guiding speakers throughout the discussion.

“We're not handling [mental health very well at all [as a country],” Pitts said. “I think the health system's infrastructure has been crumbling for years. That's one of the first things budget cutters look at when they talk about shortages of revenue and provide basic services. You look at the state government. I was part of that. I used to say the state government does management really well, but we don't do prevention at all.”

Pitts hinted towards plans for the betterment of mental health in the community as well, through a new treatment facility at Centerstone.

“Centerstone received a grant to build it, and it's about to start construction to do an inpatient treatment center where they will have about 15 beds,” he said. “So that’s a positive. We’re seeing hospitals recruiting more and more mental health practitioners. It’s still stigmatized if you have mental health issues. You’re an outcast. So, we have to do better. We must do better.”

The Morgan University Ballroom was filled with PELP and honors students eager to engage with community leaders on mental health issues.

“[Poli-Talk] is important because it's put on by PELP, and it helps [the students] get a feel for leadership roles as that is what the program is oriented towards,” Adam Griffith, a senior at Austin Peay, said. “And it's helpful for other students because it gives them a voice as the people writing the questions, which can help voice their concerns.”

Below is a list of the panelists at Poli-Talk 2023:

Dr. Leonard Clemons, vice president of Student Affairs

Assistant Professor of Music Lauren Booke

Clarksville Major Joe Pitts

Dr. Dametraus Jaggers, executive director of APSU’s University Student Success Leadership Team

Patrol Sergeant Cheryl Ramsey of the APSU Police Department

Lee Harrell, chief of staff to the Montgomery County Mayor’s Office

For more information regarding PELP, see the resources below: