November 16, 2005

Students Address Mental Illnesses

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Cornell Minds Matter sponsored an open dialogue on mental health yesterday afternoon in the International Lounge in the Straight. Gelsey Steinbrecher ’07 and Rahul Banerji ’07 led the discussion, entitled “True Stories: Surviving Mental Illness in College.”

Two students shared their personal stories about their struggles with mental illness and how it has affected their college careers. This confidential discussion of their experiences with mental illness was followed by a question and answer period where others were able to share their own stories and concerns. The event was welcomed by those personally experiencing mental illness, those with an afflicted friend or family member and others who were interested in the topic.

Banerji founded Cornell Minds Matter because he saw the need to create a club for people in his situation to come together and help each other.

“People need to come to terms with mental illness since it is such a prominent aspect on campus and in our nation,” he said.

Banerji feels that events like yesterday’s discussion will “be supportive and make a difference.”

Through Cornell Minds Matter he has coordinated numerous events both on and off campus.

Community outreach programs have been run in Ithaca public schools to raise awareness about mental health.

Steinbrecher, who is the event coordinator for Cornell Minds Matter, said that the event served as “a vehicle for attention to important mental health issues,” and added that she hopes “to use events to bring these issues into the public view.” Speaking about mental illness “is cathartic and can help other people going through the same thing,” Steinbrecher said. She will be planning additional events this year to continue to raise awareness about mental illness.

Prof. Harry Segal, human development, who attended the discussion, commented on “the silence that surrounds individual suffering.”

An open forum like last night’s discussion may help to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Rachelle Butt ’06, who attended the talk, said that “the students who shared were exceedingly brave to talk about their experiences and it shows real progress in dealing with their illnesses.”

Nina Shiffrin ’06, another student who attended the talk, said that “it is important for the Cornell community to be aware of mental illness and to make an effort to be sensitive to it.”

Archived article by Dana Mendelowitz
Sun Contributor