New EMU podcast focuses on student mental health

In response to a continuing mental health decline among university students, educators and staff at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) have launched a monthly mental health podcast titled "Enlighten U." Each month, co-hosts Lolita Cummings and Melissa Thrasher sit down with an EMU student and a mental health professional to discuss topics such as anxiety and depression, addiction, and other mental health issues facing college students today.

Cummings, a public relations professor at EMU, says that the idea for a mental health podcast came from her experience in small classroom settings, where rapport with her students introduced her to several of the mental health struggles in their lives. It wasn’t until campus opened back up after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that she realized a podcast's accessible format could positively impact students.

“Everyone here recognizes that the mental health of our students is important and needs some attention,” Cummings says. “We thought a podcast would be the best way to deliver the help we’re trying to give them.”

Since "Enlighten U"'s launch in September, Cummings and Thrasher's primary goal has been to make the podcast as “student-centered” as possible. Cummings spoke with students to find out what mental health topics they wanted to hear about. After the first episode aired on EMU’s YouTube channel and Spotify, the two co-hosts took student feedback into consideration to adjust the show’s format.

“We established a student advisory board that meets once a month [to] watch the show and provide direct feedback,” Cummings explains. “We added chapters to our videos [and] made sure to focus on students specifically and focus less on scripts to make things feel more natural and less stiff.”

Student input has been integral to the show’s success, according to Cummings. Student intern Nina Scarpelli runs the recording and filming process, and students Jaida and Jessica Turner produced the show’s intro and outro music.

“There is not a part of this show that isn’t touched by students because it’s for them,” Cummings says. “It has to be research-based, but it has to be what students want as well.”

Thrasher, EMU's executive director of media relations, says the development of the podcast has been “an incredible and informative journey,” and looks forward to its future.

“We’ve been able to dissect many topics impacting young people,” Thrasher says. “We hope that the podcast will help improve students’ overall well-being.”

New "Enlighten U" episodes drop on the 15th of each month. To catch up on previous episodes and to stay up to date, follow EMU’s YouTube channel, or listen and subscribe on Spotify.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photo courtesy of EMU.
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