Samari Gilbert '17 and Yamini Bhandari '17 browse the artwork at the Beneath the Surface exhibit in WSH on Monday. (Corinne Kenwood/ Sun Staff Photographer).

May 2, 2017

Beneath the Surface Campaign Reveals Internal Mental Health Struggles

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Beneath the Surface, a campaign depicting people’s internal struggles through a series of posters, hosted a gallery on Monday featuring Cornell students, faculty and administrators to advocate for mental health resources on campus.

Cornell Health partnered with the student creators of the campaign to host the gallery of posters in Willard Straight Hall, which sought to encourage the community to look “beneath the surface” of faces in the Cornell community and to educate attendees on the efficacy of campus resources.

Shea O’Hill ’17 said the event was important for improving the dialogue on campus and offered a different approach to mental health resources on campus.

“It’s really powerful to give student faces to these issues, because you realize these are your peers and that makes you feel more comfortable addressing mental health,” she said. “This took statistics and humanized them.”

Renee Alexander ’74, associate dean of students, said in a quote written on her poster that it is important to create a dialogue relating to mental health.

“Discussing mental health contributes to a holistic, all-encompassing approach to health and wellness,” she said. “It helps us be in touch with our total being.”

The installation launches at a time of high stress and anxiety for many students, according to Sharon Dittman, director for community relations at Cornell Health, formerly Gannett Health Services. The event hosts presented posters with mental health resources, and representatives from Counseling and Psychological Services and Cornell Minds Matter also answered questions during the event.

Sponsors of the event hoped that “in sharing our experience as Cornellians, we can help others know they’re not alone if they are struggling,” according to the Facebook event page. “There are individuals and services to support each of us.”

As attendees walked around the music room and read from the posters on the wall, students shared their experiences in a video playing at the front of the room.

Students depicted in the posters elaborated on their experiences in the video by answering questions about confronting mental health and helping peers with mental health.

“Understanding my own mental health has allowed me agency and context in navigating the world around me,” Samari Gilbert ’17 wrote on one poster.

O’Hill said students should be comfortable having candid discussions about mental health with people they trust.

“I think it’s really important to have with programs like Cornell Minds Matter trying to bring visibility to the concept that it’s okay to have these discussion about mental health and reduce mental health stigma on campus,” she said.