This week the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Yale will debut its first campus-wide event designed to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Inspired by the desire to implement changes proposed in the Yale College Council report on mental health released in fall 2013, 16 Dwight Hall member groups and other student organizations formed a coalition. This group grew out of the YCC as a means to expand beyond a focus on policy changes, said Reuben Hendler ’14, co-founder of the coalition and a member of the coalition’s steering committee.
“Mental health at Yale is one part what happens in the Yale Health building, but it’s also what happens in students’ interactions with other students,” said Mira Vale ’13, coalition co-founder and member of the steering committee. “The point of [the coalition] is to facilitate cross-group collaboration.”
The coalition formed as a method to connect the various groups concerned with mental health at Yale, said John Gerlach ’14, coalition co-founder and member of the standing committee. While many groups on campus were working towards similar goals, they suffered from a lack of communication and collaboration, he said.
As their first joint action, the coalition will host a weekend of activities and workshops to educate students about strategies to deal with stress and mental health issues. The weekend will also mark the first occasion on which all of Yale’s disparate mental health organizations will work in tandem toward the same goal.
“Something that we were working on was that these groups weren’t communicating with one another in any sort of productive way,” Gerlach said. “We thought it would be beneficial to get them all in the same room.”
Steering committee members hope that events like Mind Matters’ student panel will destigmatize the use of mental health services at Yale and offer students an opportunity to talk about a broader range of mental health issues, said Olivia Pollak ’16, the president of Mind Matters and a steering committee member on the coalition.
The weekend’s 10 panels and activities will include a workshop designed to teach students how to help their peers who may be suffering from a mental illness, while others hope to empower students to take care of themselves and others, Hendler said.
In addition to generating dialogue on campus, the mental health weekend will allow steering committee members to gauge the direction of the nascent group, Pollak said. She added that the success of the weekend will determine the coalition’s goals for the following year.
“Mental health isn’t a one-time issue, especially in the college environment,” Pollak said.
Although some Dwight Hall member organizations take part in the coalition, steering committee members remain unsure of the degree to which they will be involved with Dwight Hall, said Corinne Ruth ’15, the vice president of Mind Matters and coalition steering committee member.
While this month’s focus has been on the mental health weekend, the co-founders of the coalition intend to maintain a broad scope of activities beyond event planning, Gerlach said.
Members of the coalition have also been working with YCC to reach out to students and work with Yale Health to bring about policy changes, Hendler said.
“The goal is to display how nuanced of an issue mental health and wellness is and how there are so many perspectives on it,” Ruth said.
The Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Yale formed in February 2014.