On Oct. 1, Stanford Peace of Mind (SPoM) hosted Let’s Talk, an open discussion on mental health and the campus attitude towards happiness, where students were able to brainstorm potential ideas to help make Stanford a better experience for all.
Nikita Desai ’15, co-president of SPoM, said that the goal of the group and these discussions is to help start and maintain conversations about mental health and happiness on campus.
“Universities are finally accepting that these are issues that have to be dealt with,” Desai said. “Only students who are both academically strong as well as students who have good physical and mental health are really going to be able to succeed.”
A recent 2012-13 school year crime review reported that the number of 911 calls for mental health concerns on campus have been on the rise in the last three years, with 27 calls in 2010-11 and 67 in 2012-13.
Desai explained that while the spikes in these phone calls are difficult to rationalize, several plausible explanations include people become more comfortable calling if they’re suffering or if their friends are suffering, or the police changing their guidelines for what constitutes a mental health-related call.
“Without looking deeper into the issue, it’s nearly impossible to tell the real reason behind it,” Desai said.
Regardless of what contributed to the rising trend of these 911 calls, SPoM hopes to continue engaging community members in open discussions on mental health issues.
According to Desai, SPoM had a smaller presence on campus two years ago, after many of its leadership team graduated. However, Desai and others restored the student group last year in order to increase its reach and encourage the discussion on campus about mental health issues that many students deal with.
One of the biggest programs the group put together last year was a series of panels held in various dorms on campus in which three or four students shared their stories about dealing with mental health.
“The panels are meant to be an informal thing,” Desai said. “They are for anyone who wants to feel like they can voice their concern about the campus climate and how we should address those issues.”
Analyssa Lopez ’16, a member of SPoM, said that while hosting these panels in freshman dorms proved to be a success in terms of audience turnout, it is more difficult to break into other areas of campus including sororities and ethnic communities.
“If our goal is to reach Stanford’s campus in general, then one of our focuses should be more panels targeted towards different audiences,” Lopez said.
At the open community discussion this week, one of the talking points revolved around the campus attitude towards dealing with unhappiness, something Madeleine Gill ’15 – financial officer for SPoM – considers to be a prevalent issue among peers.
“It’s impossible not to feel inadequate here, when everyone around you is really smart,” she said. “When you’re at Stanford, you forget how awesome you are.”
Gill added that there is a campus-wide level of discomfort when it comes to opening up about one’s problems.
“People here know that other people have problems, but no one’s open about it, so they aren’t able to help themselves,” she said.
The group went on to discuss potential plans for the year, including a flyer campaign with statistics on the number of Stanford students who have dealt with mental health issues.
“The main thing is that people want to know they’re not alone,” Gill said.
Desai said that SPoM plans to increase its presence on campus this year.
“We’re hoping to collaborate with other groups and let students know that there are resources and places for them to get help,” Desai said.
Gill discussed the importance of reaching out to other communities on campus, such as the LGBTQ community or ethnic groups on campus, in order to spread the conversation where needed.
“Those are spaces where students already feel comfortable,” she said. “We could weasel our way in, and show how your mental health is an aspect of your life that can tie into other parts. We could make them feel like it’s part of their community.”
Contact Josee Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.