Isolation, fear and loneliness – from distance learning to the pandemic to post-vaccination return to in-person schedules – mental health issues have been difficult for many students.
To help students struggling with mental health issues, the Terriers Thrive Together Project is holding events to promote campus resources throughout the month of October. The fair touched on many intersections of mental health, including for students of color, people with disabilities and survivors of sexual assault.
The project was virtual last year, and as the pandemic exited, organizers prioritized securing support and resources for students at in-person and online events. This year’s events range from support groups, writing workshops, community conversations to social outings, and involve events both open to the general BU community and specialized to specific marginalized groups.
Savannah Majarwitz, senior at the College of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the government student committee on mental health, said the project is a collaboration between different groups on campus such as the government student committee on mental health, the Psychiatric rehabilitation center, the Medicine, Well-being and Prevention and Well-being Project.
“It’s really just to open up a wider awareness about mental health and then also see where the gaps are,” said Majarwitz. “We want to hear feedback from students, we want to know how we can improve… we want to know how we can communicate that directly to administrators and how they can expand resources. “
Terriers Thrive Together hosted a mental health fair at Marsh Chapel Plaza on October 13, featuring a range of booths and information from behavioral medicine, student organizations such as Campus Survivors and, perhaps the favorite of the crowd, a mental health support dog.
Melissa Paz, deputy director of mental health promotion at Student Health Services, said the purpose of the fair was to show students what mental health resources are available on campus.
“The visibility of mental health as a significant problem is really becoming more and more visible,” Paz said. “Students become aware of the issues and the importance of de-stigma, and events like this [help] to do this.”
Paz said students struggling with their mental health should know there are many services on campus that they can seek help from.
“Harnessing your emotions and recognizing how you feel, however you call it, is so important, and knowing that [you’re] not alone, ”Paz said. “Yes [students] don’t know where to look, asking someone and starting somewhere is often a very good first step.
Brooke Angell, a CAS senior and president of Active Minds, said the BU club is focused on de-stigmatizing mental health issues.
“You’re always going to have people who are dealing with depression, anxiety, stuff like that,” Angell said, “[and] with the stress of the pandemic and going back to school as the pandemic continues, it’s very stressful. “
The fair also featured several booths from outside organizations based in the greater Boston area, including DeeDee’s Cry, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention for communities of color and advocating for the importance of education and resources in Mental Health.
Toy Burton, founder and executive director of DeeDee’s Cry, said the pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health issues in communities of color, including “disparities in just the period of health care.”
“The big part is having these conversations and sharing their stories with people to break the stigma around mental health and communities of color,” Burton said.
Christopher Robinson, BU Access and Disability Services Awareness and Training Coordinator, represented the department with a booth at the fair.
“Mental health is vast, ambiguous. It’s a challenge that we have to go through, ”said Robinson. “Disability Access Service Approaches That Alleviate Mental Health Stress [for individuals with disabilities]. “
Majarwitz said she had “mixed thoughts” on the University’s support for mental health services, but said the BU’s student affairs office funding the fair is a welcome and good step.
“I think it says they’re ready to support mental health events,” she said. “I would really like this effort and passion to translate into the support of more services for students as well. “