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Student organization increases health education with publication and podcast

Ishan Rola, a third-year in neuroscience, sits with Allison Dang, a first-year in biomedical science, who is taking over his role as Chief of Publication for the Columbus chapter of Universal Health Aid. Photo Credit: Akayla Gardner | Lantern Reporter

The Columbus chapter of student organization Universal Health Aid is expanding its community outreach to raise awareness on pertinent health issues with its online publication, “Doctor’s Note,” and podcast focusing on mental health, “Hidden in Plain Sight.”

The publication’s first article was released in May 2018, which inspired the mental health podcast series, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” that began in March. The organization hosts two health screenings every year for the greater Columbus community and focuses on serving populations that don’t use utilize preventive care to avoid illness.

Ishan Rola, a third-year in neuroscience and chief of the publication, said the organization printed “Doctor’s Note” articles on the flu epidemic and opioid addiction to share with patients at a health screening, but they weren’t well received at first.

“In reality, the only people who picked [the articles] up were the doctors. They liked it, but we need to make sure everyone can understand it,” Rola said.

Allison Dang, a first-year in biomedical science, turned the articles into brochures, making them more digestible for participants of the health screening.

Rola said the brochures were put into each person’s exit folder, which led to people actually reading and engaging with them.

Rola said in the process of writing an article on mental health, he wanted the publication committee to go deeper into the topic.

Rola said he originally wanted to create a single podcast paralleling several stories of college students’ mental health journeys. However, once Rola and co-host Annie Knudson, a fourth-year in English, began interviewing students, he realized how different every person’s story was.

“So I [asked myself], what if I created just a nice safe space for people to just come and open up and talk about their issues?” Rola said.

The podcast became a series and released six episodes on Spotify and iTunes since its inception in March.

“There’s so many different perspectives, so many different life events, and so many different stories,” Rola said. “Everyone’s unique and different. It’s a great way to increase empathy and being able to understand everyone’s perspective when you understand everyone’s struggles.”

Rola said people he would’ve never known were having suicidal thoughts, including people close to him, opened up about their experiences on the podcast, and he believes it to be therapeutic for them to talk about their stories.

“I never realized how much of an impact it could have on them,” Rola said. “I was focused on, ‘I want to make sure people understand.’ I wasn’t realizing maybe this could be impactful for them.”

Rola said this transcends Ohio State, but the podcast is still open to interviews from undergraduate, graduate or medical students.

The podcasts really struck a chord with Dang, as someone who is close to people who suffer from serious mental health issues, she said.

“I know a lot of people who listened to the podcasts and then went to me to say how much the podcast showed them it’s OK to talk about these things,” Dang said.

Dang said she will take on the role of chief of the publication during the next academic year and definitely plans to continue releasing articles and podcasts.

The organization hopes the podcast teaches people about what it’s like to live with diseases such as depression and anxiety, Rola said.

“It’s been very eye-opening for me,” Rola said. “It’s just very nice to get a nice sense of community and to realize there are more people out there that have this issue and that we’re all together trying to fight it.”

The Engaged Scholars logo accompanies stories that feature and examine research and teaching partnerships formed between The Ohio State University and the community (local, state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources. These stories spring from a partnership with OSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. The Lantern retains sole editorial control over the selection, writing and editing of these stories.

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