Third You Are Not Alone expands campus mental health discussion

Last Thursday, the Mental Health Committee, a committee under College Council (CC), hosted You Are Not Alone in Goodrich Hall. The event was designed to encourage support and solidarity in the College community among students who have struggled with psychological, emotional and social issues. This semester’s You Are Not Alone was the third iteration of the open mic-based event.

After Mental Health Committee co-chairs Krista Pickett ’13 and Gia Recco ’14 opened the event, four scheduled speakers shared their stories with the attendees.

“Within the Mental Health Committee, we thought about people we thought had interesting stories to share and who would be willing to tell those stories,” Recco said. “We wanted to have keynote speakers who could speak to a variety of different potential mental health struggles.”

Later in the night, the microphone was opened to those who wanted to speak about their experiences with mental health.

“A lot of people have come and spoken, even if they didn’t necessarily feel they were going to,” Recco said. Thursday’s event lasted two hours. After the event had officially ended, counselors from the Health Center and Chaplains’ Office and members of the Mental Health Committee remained in Goodrich in case anyone wanted to talk further. The entire evening was designed to create a safe space for students. Members of the Mental Health Committee and staff from the Health Center and Chaplains’ Office were present and wore black ribbons around their arms to indicate their availability. There was also a designated safe space located in the dance studio on the first floor of Goodrich so that anyone who felt the need to exit could do so. The Mental Health Committee was institutionalized in December of 2011 (“Permanent standing granted to Mental Health Committee,” Dec. 7). As of 2011, this committee has been working to create an environment of solidarity and support on campus for those dealing with mental health issues. The committee’s mission is to “[facilitate] discussion and [address] issues proactively.” In its original iteration, You Are Not Alone was the culmination of Break the Silence week, which was an attempt to fulfill this mission.

“So far, all the events we’ve had have been very successful,” Recco said. “These events have been very powerful and beneficial to the College community. This type of forum sheds light on mental health struggles that are prevalent here and removes the negative stigma that people associate with them.”

Dean Bolton emphasized that the administration will continue to partner with the Mental Health Committee to support You Are Not Alone, though it will not be taking over the program’s development or implementation. “You Are Not Alone has always been an initiative of the Mental Health Committee, so it’s always been something that we and our staffs have supported and tried to be helpful with and be present or absent as they choose, which has also varied over time, how much they wanted members of the faculty and staff to be present,” Bolton said. “So it continues to be an initiative of the Mental Health Committee as they see what would best serve the community and what would best serve students, so we’re not driving it, but we’re excited to help with it.”

Bolton also said that she sees the program’s student drive as its greatest strength. “I think you would never want to have it be something that wasn’t initiated by students,” she said. “It should be something that students are doing because they want their voice and their story to be out there. I think it will go on as long as people feel like it’s a valuable way to address these concerns.”

The Mental Health Committee plans to continue sponsoring You Are Not Alone events every semester as part of its agenda to increase mental health awareness on campus, according to Recco.