WKU mental health advocate recognized nationally

Monica Kast

Brendan Ward felt was he was never able to meet the benchmarks and requirements for scholarships and awards because of his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Now a freshman at WKU, Ward, a Memphis native, is fighting for increased scholarship availability for students with disabilities.

Ward has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and will be speaking on a panel at its annual program in Washington, D.C., on May 5.

Last month, Ward worked with SGA President Jay Todd Richey to make a proposal to offer scholarships to students with disabilities.

“As a freshman, I looked at the website, and I didn’t see any scholarships during scholarship season for people like me — people with a disability,” Ward said. “I went to the SGA meeting. I proposed a proposal seeing if they could come up with any type of fund for students with disabilities. I think I kind of touched a lot of the senators’ hearts because they never heard a student who has disabilities come in there and bring their voice.”

Ward said that since he spoke at the SGA meeting, SGA has taken action and committees are beginning to be formed to help students with disabilities.

Meagan Ward, a sophomore senator who has been working with Ward on this issue, was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.

Brendan Ward said although there is beginning to be action taken to help those on campuses with disabilities, there is still more that needs to be done. He had several ideas about what would be most helpful at WKU.

“There needs to actually be … support groups because although the Counseling and Testing Center provides psychiatrists to talk to, I think there needs to be some type of support group where [participants] can meet and have connections with people on campus,” Ward said.

Ward also said he felt there needed to be more movements to raise awareness on campus and thought more could be done at events like M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan to show students how to communicate with people who have disabilities.

Scott Reider, who works for Vanguard Communications, which does public relations for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, said in an email to the Herald that Ward is considered a national advocate and leading voice for youth with ADHD.

“As he has overcome severe challenges with ADHD, Brendan advocates for himself and others as a member of Youth M.O.V.E National,” Rieder said in an email. “Brendan will be serving as a feature panelist and sharing his expertise as a leader in the mental health field at our Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.”

Youth M.O.V.E. is a “a national, youth-led organization devoted to improving services and systems that supports positive growth and development by uniting the voices and causes of individuals who have lived experience in various systems,” according to the organization’s website.

Ward said he has worked with Youth M.O.V.E. to advocate for those with disabilities by going to conferences and sharing his story.

Ward said it means a lot to him that he was considered to speak on behalf of SAMHSA and Youth M.O.V.E.

“For them to even nominate me to go speak is an honor,” Ward said. “It’s an honor because I’ve never been recognized on a national level for the little things I try to do for the community, which is have a voice.”

On April 28, Ward and SGA will be hosting a disabilities forum in the Senate Chambers at 5 p.m. Ward said this forum is an opportunity for students without disabilities to learn about life on campus for those with disabilities.

“As of right now, students with disabilities are voiceless on campus,” Ward said. “I’m trying to be that voice for them.”

*Correction: The original version of this story named Scott Reider as a volunteer with SAMHSA. He is actually a consultant with Vanguard Communications that performs public relations services for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Additionally, the information from Reider was not attributed properly to the initial email sent to the Herald News Desk. The Herald is regretful of the mistake.