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March 2, 2017

Mental Health Conference Sparks New Diversity Initiatives

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After attending a Conference on Mental Illness at Brown University, the Cornell delegation hopes to bring the discussion topics back to campus and implement new mental health initiatives that recognize different cultural backgrounds and nationalities.

“Cornell must understand that mental health support cannot take a ‘one size fits all’ stance,” Carumey Stevens ’19 said. “When we discuss and assess mental health initiatives, we must consider that many Cornellians have different cultures, backgrounds and stories.”

During the conference, students from the around the Ivy League discussed potential plans for medical leave and time off, resources and support systems, ableism and accessing accommodations on campus, mental illness and marginalized students and public health policies employed at schools.

“Our main goal [was] to have a group of mental health activists from every Ivy League [school] work together to create lasting, positive change at each of their institutions,” said Molly Hawes, chair of the internal operations team at Brown.

During the conference, students participated in workshops, panels and problem-solving sessions, and presented on the state of mental health at their respective universities.

“Some campuses are doing better in some areas, while others are struggling,” said Matt Jirsa ’19.

According to Stevens, the delegation is looking to work with Gannett and organizations like Cornell Minds Matter in hopes of “institut[ing] more programming to help voices that are often marginalized or silenced.”

Some of these initiatives include encouraging professors to address mental health issues in their syllabi and classes and establishing an anonymous communication platform for students to reach out to trained peer counselors, Stevens said.

“There are a lot of ideas that are in development and its important to consider the power every Cornell student plays in implementing this concrete change by working with the administration,” Jirsa said. “We have to realize that we have made tremendous progress, but there are uncertain obstacles ahead that we can tackle together as an aware and united community.”

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