Students discussed the causes of mental health issues on campus and floated potential solutions at a forum hosted by the Mental Health Task Force and Office of University Life Monday night.
In the wake of four student suicides this academic year, students have been seeking increased mental health resources. Administrators have promised to implement suicide prevention gatekeeper training and to consult with students on how to strengthen mental health resources on campus. The task force will compile a report based on the forum’s discussions to submit to administrators.
Some students at the forum said they wanted to become more informed and see what they could do for their peers on an interpersonal level. Others wanted to see a change in Columbia’s health resources and considered the forum a step in the right direction.
Gurnoor Tucker, CC ’18, came with a group of students from the Columbia University Democrats and said he thought solutions should focus on marginalized students and ensure accessibility to resources for students who may be burdened by their economic backgrounds.
“In the wake of the election, we wanted to divert attention to issues on campus,” Tucker said. “Accessibility is a huge issue with low-income students—you already come to a tough college, and having a job is a burden. Affordability is a major issue.”
Discussion also touched on the effects of mental health issues on demographics that are disproportionately at risk for suicide, including students of color and international students.
Columbia College Student Council Class of 2017 Vice President Brennon Mendez raised concerns that Columbia does not have a center specifically for LGBTQ students, even though every other Ivy League school does. Mendez drafted a proposal for the creation of such a center, which was endorsed unanimously by the Engineering Student Council and CCSC last month.
“If you’re trying to address mental health on campus or for the student body but you’re completely ignoring the populations at the highest risk, that’s not a comprehensive strategy,” Mendez said, citing the fact that LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for suicide.
Students at the forum also called for an end to Columbia’s stress culture, which they described as consisting of an air of competition within Columbia and an expectation to maintain perfection. Students felt that changing Columbia’s culture was one of the most important ways to improve mental health on campus.
“On an individual level, we should be having more positive conversations rather than the stress Olympics,” Jess Swanson, CC ’17, said.