This semester, the Mental Health Committee (MHC) has been working to amend the structure of You Are Not Alone (YANA). In the past, YANA occurred once a semester and featured three students who spoke on topics of mental health, followed by an open mic session. Conversations about the scope and intensity of these events has led MHC to change the structure of YANA. This year, the committee is doing away with these semiannual events and replacing them with multiple smaller, more focused events throughout the semester. These events will focus on themes such as academics, relationships and family.
According to MHC Co-President Julia Randall ’19, these changes arose from concerns that the old YANA event structure cast too wide of a net for dealing with such a complex problem as mental health. “We were trying to have one event do too many things,” Randall said. “It’s trying to do too much if the scope of the event is just ‘mental health’ because it’s futile to try to solve the entire problem all at once.”
MHC member Jessica Muñoz ’19 added that these changes also reflect a growing demand for conversations that address mental health. “There are a lot of people coming to one event per semester, so people want to have these conversations,” Muñoz said. With more frequent events, MHC members hope that thinking about mental health can become an ongoing conversation, rather than a condensed conversation within a single night.
These changes are also addressing concerns that many students have brought up expressing feeling overwhelmed by the size and intensity of YANA. MHC members hope that smaller events will create more intimate spaces in which more students feel comfortable and welcome.
MHC is also thinking critically about who is given a voice at YANA events. While in the past speakers have been chosen internally, they are now soliciting requests for speakers through Daily Messages in an effort to improve outreach and inclusion. In addition, recognizing that not all students feel comfortable speaking publically during the open mic session, MHC is adding an option for students to provide written statements for the event coordinators to read aloud.
This change is part of a broader effort within MHC to rethink its role and relationship to the College community. MHC serves as the liaison between Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) and the student body, and Randall hopes that the committee can continue to do so while remaining student-driven and student-focused. She also hopes to use this role to access and share information about IWS. “We’re currently working with [IWS] on projects that find and disseminates the statistics about who makes use of these services,” she said.
Overall, MHC is excited about the reformed YANA structure and its first event, which will occur tonight at 8 p.m. in Goodrich and will focus on academic stress. However, its members recognize that there is still more work to be done. “This step is solving one piece of YANA, but we certainly haven’t solved problems of representation and the consuming of others’ pain, especially others whose identities you don’t share,” Randall said. “So, in the future, we’re definitely going to be working through those issues.”