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October 15, 2015

Mental Health Awareness Week Kicks Off, Aims to Stomp Out Stigma

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Today marks the start of the first Mental Health Awareness Week, which lasts until Oct. 23 and will feature events around campus designed to promote the awareness and understanding of mental health issues.

“I feel like a lot of students are afraid to come out of their comfort zones and talk about mental health, especially with Cornell’s atmosphere, but they need to know that people are going to help them,” said Maria Chak ’18, one of the week’s organizers and Student Assembly vice president of outreach.

The week kicks off with a talk by Frank Warren, also known as “The Most Trusted Stranger in America” and the founder of PostSecret, a website that posts anonymous submissions of “secrets” sent in from all over the country. PostSecret begun in 2005 as an art project when Warren asked people to submit their secrets on creatively decorated postcards. He has since accumulated over 1,000,000 secrets and has compiled them into six books.

“Warren has worked with crisis hotlines on college campuses to address mental health issues,” said Angelica Cullo ’17, the large events coordinator for the Cornell Minds Matter e-board. “If you like Humans of New York, you should check out PostSecret.”

Mental Health Awareness Week will also include a variety of events, such as yoga on the Arts Quad and a Willard Straight Hall exhibit titled “Faces of Mental Health.”

According to Tiffany Guo ’16, the exhibit features portraits of students and descriptions of the struggles they faced.

“We asked students to share stories of their personal struggles and how they addressed resolving them. Each portrait highlighted their individual experiences,” said Guo, the series event coordinator for Cornell Minds Matter. “I think this is a great way for students to speak out about mental issues and encourage others to do so as well.”

Mental Health Awareness Week will come to a close with an event called “Dining with Diverse Minds” on next Friday, which will bring an estimated 150 students, faculty and staff together in an active discussion about mental health issues. Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, will be speaking about mental health in relation to higher education at the event.

The event is being co-sponsored by over 25 student organizations, with an estimated cost between $12,000 and $15,000, according to Matt Indimine ’18, a principal organizer of Mental Health Awareness Week and co-chair of the S.A. Health and Wellness Committee. Most of the money is allocated to hosting Frank Warren’s talk and for providing food at the various events, although some companies, such as Insomnia Cookies, have agreed to make donations.

“We’ve been planning this since May,” Indimine said.

A variety of organizations including the African, Latino, Asian and Native American Programming Board, Cornell Minds Matter and many others are collaborating to make the week a success and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.

“Mental health issues affect everyone in a different way, which is why there are so many organizations involved,” Indimine explained.

Another one of Mental Health Awareness Week’s main objectives is to promote available resources on campus such as Counseling and Psychological Services at Gannett, Let’s Talk and EARS.

For Carolina Bieri ’16, co-chair of the S.A. Health and Wellness Committee, Mental Health Awareness Week is important because students sometimes neglect their well-being.

“I think that people on this campus ignore their personal health far too often — most notably their mental health — and if we can get people to think how they’re taking care of themselves, even just a little more often, then we’ve accomplished something,” Bieri said.

Mental Health Awareness Week was approved and sponsored by the S.A. following the passage of Resolution 6: “Mental Health Week Recognition.” The resolution cites multiple reasons supporting the perceived necessity of the promotion of mental health awareness, such as the fact that 1,100 college students die each year by suicide, which is the third leading cause of death among youth.

  • Harold A. Maio

    —-Mental Health Awareness Week Kicks Off, Aims to Stomp Out Stigma

    Actually, your headline stomps it in. In bold print.

    You have added your voice to those directing that prejudice.

    The Women’s Movement told us to end the mind game, rape/stigma. Please do not instigate it again.

    Harold A. Maio, retired mental health editor

    • daily sun reader

      That is a LOT of violence in a headline for an article about mental health.

      kicking and stomping? who writes this??
      Is there an editor?

      • Informed Advocate

        That’s really your critique here? I don’t think “kicks off” is very violent.. nor do I think “stomping out stigma” is necessarily violent? Get a reality check, and don’t argue irrelevant points for your own enjoyment.

  • Grad Student

    I walked into speak to someone at Gannett yesterday. To my surprise the tiny waiting room was nearly at capacity with 20 other students waiting for help. I realize that a much expanded and long-awaited Gannett building is being built.This situation will certainly improve in the coming semesters.
    An area that is not really addressed is the link of exercise, mental health, and academic performance. Since much of the time school is in session, the weather is cool to cold (it has been unseasonably warm this year) and people have limited access to/or do not use outdoor recreation areas, Cornell has a severe shortage of workout facilities for those months.

    Trustees, President Garrett. I challenge you to check out the facilities yourself. When the weather gets a bit cooler, when it is below 40 and that outdoor basketball court sits idle for most days/times November-perhaps March while the tiny Noyes building doesn’t meet demand. There is also a large parking lot bordering NOYES. Space for people to promote mental and physical health, or convenient space to encourage, to promote motor vehicle use on campus? What is a better investment for Cornell to make for the university in its people?
    There is ONE shower for all men that use NOYES. Hundreds of men work out there each day. ONE shower. ONE! I’m guessing the case isn’t much better for women. How does that work after a fitness class?

    When I go to spinning, yoga, or Noyes to take a mental break from studies, I find that the classes have “Sold Out” and sometimes staff have to give out passes before someone can ENTER the gym. It’s great Cornell promotes “awareness” of mental health, but until the Trustees have awareness of the under-supply, the lack of capacity to handle the current demand, these “awareness” events are mostly just a PR stunt.

    Trustees, Ms. President, I challenge you to: in the colder weather show up to a spinning or yoga class, at a reasonable hour, and try to get in–even showing up 10-15 minutes before class starts. I dare you. Even for the people who DO get in, know that to get a spot in the class they have to arrive perhaps 20 or 30 min before the class + ~1 hour class + shower/changing. The lack of capacity has a wait time cost, even for those who get into the class. For an Ivy League institution, the capacity of the facilities here is a joke.

    Cornell, if we are serious about Mental Health, more than a declaration of war on mental health and a Daily Sun article about awareness week, the issues that surround mental health, access to medical services of all types including counseling, drastically improved access to fitness and recreational facilities, among other conditions, must be addressed. And funded.

  • Interested Party

    Cornell, to improve your undergraduate mental health, stop grading on a curve, and remove median grades from official undergraduate transcripts!

    These two academic practices needlessly increase daily stress for Cornell students. They decrease collaboration and teamwork among students, especially in the most competitive majors. They result in transcripts that make a significant cohort of Cornell undergrads less competitive for graduate school and employment opportunities. The effect can be a sense of remorse and betrayal by many Cornell students, and reduced loyalty and contributions by future Cornell alumni and their parents who footed all or part of the bill. Cornell’s undergraduate admissions “yield” will also suffer as familiarity spreads and the best candidates make Cornell one of their “backup” choices.

    What is the point of recruiting the top 10% of high school students, only to guarantee that half in each course with 10+ students will be permanently placed in the bottom 50% – ON THE TRANSCRIPT! What other top-tier college puts median grades on the transcript? Is this an Ivy League standard?

    What is the point of putting high school “curve-setters” together in a Cornell class, only to punish half of them by grading on a curve? It makes more sense to maintain a high academic standard by grading high-achieving Cornell students against valid and reliable – and reasonable – competency and content benchmarks.

    Certainly, the high stress caused by grading on a curve and posting median grades on permanent transcripts has a negative effect on overall mental health at Cornell. With Cornell’s new leadership, it’s the perfect time to design a new grading paradigm.

  • daily sun reader

    Perhaps Cornell should match up the Mental Health Awareness week with open enrollment. The software that is “Student Center” is decades old. Student Center is stress-inducing software. Cornell, it’s not 1995! It’s time to implement a new scheduling software system!

    Why is Cornell using illogical, poorly functional outdated software, which knowingly leads people to develop and or use EXTERNAL software to meet the needs of a service Cornell fails to provide?
    It’s probably due to some silly decades-long contract that a previous president agreed to; nepotism.

  • I am thrilled to see that Cornell is hosting this awareness week. We were honored to be featured speakers at Texas Tech University for their inaugural Suicide Prevention week. We presented Warning Signs: Are You or a Friend at Risk for the students as well as a faculty round table discussion addressing the rising crisis of depression, addiction & suicide in college students. We would love to support your efforts to bring hope and resources to students.

    Keep up the great work!

    Judy Davis

  • Interested Party

    Cornell started posting median grades on transcripts during Spring 2009 for the Class of 2012 that matriculated Fall 2008. From Spring 2009 forward, median grades were excluded from transcripts for Class 2011 and prior, and included for Class 2012 and after. Cornell’s infamous suicide cluster occurred during Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 – immediately following implementation of the new transcript policy. A mere coincidence?

    To quote the article above, “Faculty members have been told to be especially sensitive to students’ needs and “to help put the academic rigor that we know is part of Cornell in proper perspective,””

    Should Cornell do a little more than advise faculty? Is it time to terminate the practice of posting median grades on official transcripts?

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