The Huntington News | The NU Community Creates and Advocates for Mental Health Resources
Beyond university resources, groups in the Northeast community are working to improve the mental health of the student body.
Many student-run organizations, such as Active Minds and lean on me northeast, promote or offer services that the university does not offer, such as peer support and open spaces to air concerns and grievances.
Still students themselves, the leaders of these organizations understand the seriousness of the North East’s mental health crisis while fighting for improvements within the university’s administration.
Active Minds is a nonprofit organization focused on young adult mental health, with chapters in more than 600 high schools and university campuses at national scale. The Northeast chapter focuses on education around mental health, advocacy to improve mental health resources for students and self-care programs, according to its vice president MK Moskowitz.
“We are a community of people who care about mental health and many of us have lived experiences with mental illness,” said the combined fourth-year social services and political science major.
Throughout the semester, Moskowitz helped organize many mental health programs for students. Active Minds held its first virtual bereavement meeting on December 27 so students could speak openly and safely about the events of the semester.
“It was a very difficult semester for a lot of people, and we wanted to keep some kind of space. [A grief meeting] is not something we have done before because none of us are clinicians, but we thought that as a peer support event we could just have a space where people could talk about what they’ve been through in the last two months,” Moskowitz says.
Active Minds has also launched break the silence, an Instagram account where students can anonymously submit their experiences with NU mental health services, call for change or receive community support. Moskowitz said this program was inspired by NEU Express yourself, a similar Instagram account providing a platform for sexual assault survivors. However, the need for Break the Silence also arose out of a request for evidence from the university.
“Last semester, me and a few other board members met with the Northeast admin to improve [mental health] Resources. A lot of the backlash we were getting was like, ‘Oh we just don’t hear it’s a problem, we need some hard evidence or first person testimony from students having trouble with mental health services on campus,” Moskowitz said. .
Active Minds has planned to meet with UHCS this semester to discuss its ongoing list of demands to improve NU’s mental health resources. These requests range from improve mental health training for faculty and staff to lobby for Northeastern to adopt the International Accreditation of Consulting Services, or IACS, which would ensure the hiring of diverse and skilled clinicians, among other improvements. Moskowitz said that while the administration is receptive to meetings, it’s hard to enact change.
“They are very, very nice people, but there is definitely a lot of resistance to change. I get it to some extent, there’s a lot of nodding and saying, “that sounds good.” And then there never seems to be a follow-up,” Moskowitz said. “There seems to be a desire to do better, but there seem to be so many institutional barriers in place that it becomes really difficult to do anything tangible.”
Other organizations on campus, such as lean on me northeast, offer peer-to-peer counseling for students who need someone to talk to. The anonymous helpline allows members of the North East community to discuss non-crisis issues with those who understand the pressures of being a student and without time limits.
“We think it’s a really unique resource because as students from the North East we have stuff like co-op, we have stuff like NUin which is a bit difficult for an older person to understand these issues, so train supporters, train North East students to listen to other students build[s] a better community and allows for more empathetic conversations,” said Brigitte Cronin, a fourth-year chemistry and environmental science major and chapter coordinator for Lean on Me.
As Lean on Me waits to achieve official club designation on campus, members are already working with the university to expand access to resources on campus. Cronin explained that the UCHS in particular has been supportive of their efforts.
“[UHCS] have been very good advocates for our presence on campus because the people who work there are fantastic. … They recognize that there has been a problem with UHCS in the past and that there is still not enough access, staff and counselors for such a large campus, they recognize it and they want really provide as many mental health resources to students as they can,” Cronin said.
But to implement these changes within NU’s mental health services, students had to step up. Hurley, who participated in the Active Minds survey, decided to create a petition end of December 2021 to share some of the statistics the survey had found, as well as to call on the administration to improve access to mental health care on campus.
I’m pretty skeptical about the university and the administration, as I think a lot of people are. I went to this meeting thinking that I would need to change people’s minds in the sense that I needed to let them know that there was a great sense of urgency behind it all. But I didn’t really need it, they knew that. There was a lot of listening. »
“I think the petition confirmed that there are a lot of people who are really unstable and unhappy with the way things are going right now,” Hurley said.
The first weekend the online petition was posted, it reached Hurley’s original goal of 5,000 signatures. Many appear to be from North Eastern students, both based on comments left and because they were only posted in North Eastern circles. The message is resounding: students are ready for a change.
When the petition had around 600 signatures, Hurley received a call from Christine Civiletto, the executive director of UHCS. Hurley said she reached out because she saw the petition and wanted to speak up, a move that, for Hurley, showed a willingness to listen he hadn’t expected.
“I’m quite skeptical about the university and the administration, as I think a lot of people are. I went into this meeting thinking that I would need to change people’s minds in the sense that I needed to impress upon them that there is a lot of urgency behind this,” Hurley said. “But I didn’t really need it, they knew that. There was a lot of listening. »
Through that first phone call and the conversations that followed, Hurley said he wanted to share the student perspective that administrators might miss.
Hurley said he has now discussed some changes and solutions with the administrators and, while it is not clear which ones will be implemented or when, Hurley said he hopes to come out of those conversations.
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