Courtesy of Paul Johansen

The Yale Student Mental Health Association hosted its annual Mind Over Matter fair in the Berkeley College buttery and multipurpose room on Saturday, April 6.

During the fair, students explored various booths from mental health advocacy groups as well as campus mental health organizations — among them, Elis for Rachael, the Good Life Center and Yale College Community Care, or YC3.

“It’s about having people come and see what resources are available to them, what they could potentially have access to, in a more interactive way,” Karen Ayoub ’25 told the News. “I think the most important thing for us and the reason we host this every year is to destigmatize mental health.”

Ayoub explained that YSMHA wants students not to see how mental health resources are not only useful for a moment of crisis but can also help support wellness and self-care throughout the school year.

In addition to the fair, YSMHA has also been partnering with YC3 and other organizations to host events like a social work workshop, gratitude letter writing and study breaks, according to Ayoub. 

“I think that this fair gives [students] a sense of what is possible during their time at Yale,” Ayoub said. “I think that for the YSMHA board, we definitely see this as a value that we want to impart on Yale’s campus like mental health awareness and community building.”

The Mind Over Matter event comes as mental health ranked as the top student concern in the presidential search report published by the Student Advisory Council in January. 

University President Peter Salovey told the News in February that while presidents do not usually make policies for services, they can raise funds and bring awareness to mental health. He added that the University has increased its mental health support to residential colleges through the expansion of YC3.

Other University programs focused on wellness and mental health include the Good Life Center, which provides space for meditation, rest and gratitude. The Good Life Center has two locations — Silliman College and the Schwarzman Center.

“I think a big part of us being here is bringing awareness to the fact that the Good Life Center is there and can help with mental health,” said Catherine Santiago ’24, a representative from the Good Life Center.

Santiago explained how the Good Life Center partners with other organizations throughout the year to help students, including with YC3 for Wellness Wednesdays and workshops focused on mindfulness and gratitude. 

Elis for Rachael, a mental health advocacy group, who, along with current students, filed a class action lawsuit against the University’s mental health policies in November 2022. The lawsuit was settled in August 2023, and its settlement came after sweeping changes to the leave policies. 

“What’s most important for Elis for Rachael is connection to students,” Paul Johansen, an organizer with Elis for Rachael, said. “We see ourselves as advocates for students, and so if we don’t know what’s on students’ minds, we can’t do our job.”

Johansen said that at the event, he heard about how the new leave of absence policies, instituted in January 2023, have improved students’ experiences. The changes included a reclassification of medical withdrawal as medical leave of absence and relaxed reinstatement requirements for students who take time away.

Johansen also noted the University’s new dean’s extension policy and questioned the amount of time it took to convince the administration to make the change. Starting this fall, mental health will be explicitly included as a valid reason for requesting a dean’s extension.

“It’s sad in a way to see how long it takes for some of the [student organization’s] specific recommendations,” Johansen said. “Some of [the changes] are mere policy changes, and they don’t cost Yale anything. They’ve changed it by literally posting a new policy on the internet.”

Yale Mental Health and Counseling is located at 55 Lock St.

Tristan Hernandez is the 147th Editor in Chief and President of the Yale Daily News. He previously served as a copy editor and covered student policy & affairs and student life for the University desk. Originally from Austin, Texas, he is a rising junior in Pierson College majoring in political science.