Following on the heels of the Yale College Council Mental Health Report release in September, the YCC hosted a forum on Saturday afternoon to bring together mental health and well-being organizations on campus.
The meeting of roughly 30 students at 17 Hillhouse Ave. was the first ever to bring together these organizations to brainstorm ideas about how to implement specific, concrete solutions to address mental health issues on campus. Over the nearly two-hour gathering, students discussed initiatives including creating a centralized mental health website, holding mental health workshops and encouraging wellness habits. Many of the students in attendance came from a range of campus organizations including Mind Matters, YMindful, Inspire Yale, Flourish, the Calhoun Happiness Project, Communication and Consent Educators, Chaplaincy Fellows and Freshman Counselors.
“We knew coming in that our primary goal was to leave with concrete, actionable goals,” said Reuben Hendler ’14, one of three authors of the mental health report. “It’s important to move from a larger focus [on mental health] to implementational issues.”
Students discussed the idea of a workshop that would teach participants how to reach out to a friend about whom they are concerned and how to consistently practice mood-boosting habits, such as sleeping sufficiently, eating healthfully and exercising frequently. The forum also brought up working on increasing publicity for mental health resources by pulling together links to campus resources to create a centralized website, putting up stickers in bathroom stalls with numbers students can call for help and creating a mental health resource and event newsletter that would be sent to interested individuals.
In addition to discussing a website that pulls together mental health resources, students also discussed creating a website that features faculty and students discussing how they overcame mental health struggles, modeled after a similar resource, “Harvard Speaks Up.”
Participants talked about creating a weeklong series of events where student groups could discuss their work in the area and mental health professionals would deliver lectures.
“We want to tackle similar issues, so it’s good to get together,” said Chris Datskikas ’16, president of Mind Matters, a student group that promotes mental health dialogue through hosting speakers, study breaks, discussions and film screenings.
In fostering dialogue between a range of campus organizations, the forum helped to create a more unified voice for mental health advocacy at Yale, said Emily Luepker ’16, president of Inspire Yale, a group that promotes emotional well-being among the student body.
While the three study authors intend to hold a similar meeting in the future, and various forum participants had expressed interest in spearheading initiatives, YCC report co-author Gerlach said it remains unclear how the collective group will move forward from here.
“It’s pretty uncharted territory,” he said.
Approximately 39 percent of Yale College students have used Yale Mental Health & Counseling, according to the YCC report.