The Columbia Neuroscience Society will host the first Mental Health Awareness Week beginning next Monday, offering lectures, workshops, and other events about recognizing and addressing mental health issues.
On College Walk every afternoon, CNS will distribute information about mental health resources on campus, Alice! Health Promotion stress balls and sleep kits, and stickers for students to decorate with their own ideas about mental health. Representatives from many of Columbia’s mental health resources—like Alice!, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center, the Office of Residential Programs, and Nightline—will also be on hand at many events.
In total, the week’s activities were co-sponsored by nearly 30 groups, indicative of how active campus mental health groups have become in the last few months.
CNS co-president Elizabeth Munroe, CC ’12, said that one of the group’s main goals for the week is to spread the word about mental health resources on campus.
“There are great resources here that … most people don’t know anything about,” she said.
Groups like Nightline, an anonymous peer hotline, welcomed the opportunity to participate, Tanya Braun, CC ’12 and one of Nightline’s directors, said.
“I was actually really happy when they [CNS] reached out to Nightline, because I feel like we fill this really niche role on campus, because we’re the only people who are there late at night,” Braun said. “I think it’s important to know that we are there and that we are involved with groups like them and that we are supporting them.”
While some of the week’s events focus on the clinical aspects of mental health, others will approach the subject from different points of view. Monday night’s event, for instance, is co-sponsored by the Columbia Queer Alliance and will feature a workshop led by a representative of the Trevor Project, a New York City-based suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth.
“A lot of people don’t realize, especially at a place like Columbia with such a welcoming environment, but being a LGBTQ youth has a lot of stress because you’re worried about coming out and worried that peers may not accept you,” said Nathen Huang, CC ’15, CNS member, and a member of CQA’s executive board.
Other events include a screening of the film “Black Swan” on Tuesday night that will include a discussion about stress, and a “Night of Relaxation” on Friday featuring musical performances, meditation, and free massages from Stressbusters.
Mary Commerford, director of the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center at Barnard, praised the week’s programming.
“I think it’s great for the campus. We all share the responsibility for mental health needs on campus,” she said. “We can offer treatment, but we really rely on everybody to be aware and on people to recognize signs in their friends.”
Munroe said she hopes that the week’s events will help make students aware of how to handle stress.
“There’s a level of stress that’s acceptable … and that’s going to be harder to change,” she said. “But at least if people know where to go when they are stressed—even from utilizing RAs to going to CPS—if they know what resources are available within that stressful culture, then it might help them.”
The groups will table on College Walk from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., as well as host a lecture or other event in the evening, every day from Monday through Friday, with the final event taking place on Saturday afternoon. The full list of events can be found on CNS’s website or on the Facebook event page.