Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

Matt Jirsa '19 speaks at an info session on a Mental Health Task Force in Rockefeller Hall, Feb. 6, 2018.

September 16, 2018

Student-led Task Force to Submit Mental Health Petition to University

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A student-led task force launched in February to investigate Cornell’s mental health issues is now gearing up to release a petition proposing changes to the University’s mental health policy.

While the task force  — independent from the University —  hopes to publish the petition on Oct. 20, the second-to-last day of the student-organized Mental Health Awareness Week at Cornell, it is still struggling to “figure out the best structure” for the organization, according to Matt Jirsa ’19, co-chair of the task force. He explained that the continued organizational restructuring is partly a result of how difficult it is to mobilize students to join “a cause that takes a significant amount of time to consider.”

Nevertheless, Jirsa said that the task force has mapped out its objectives by outlining key areas they hope to see changes in after researching how other schools deal with mental health issues.

“We have researched into both the mental health systems at Cornell and programs that have worked on other campuses to see what can be implemented to improve mental health culture on campus,” Jirsa said.

Joanna Hua ’20, co-chair of the task force, said that the group has reached out to a number of individuals ranging from licensed psychiatrists to government officials running public health programs. According to Hua, these officials were contacted in order to ask about the medical implications behind providing mental health care.

“Mental health professionals undoubtedly are more knowledgeable in this area than us students are,” said Hua. “We can … inform the administration about what we as the Cornell student body want to see improve, but [we] also need a medically sound approach to this improvement.”

According to Hua, she has experienced mental health issues for most of her life, and by coming to Cornell and further experiencing these issues, she is determined “to make a change on this campus that is student-led so that our needs are the epitome of our focus.”

However, the recent increase in volume of mental health-related posts on the Cornell meme page — Cornell: Any Person, Any Meme, according to Hua, is not indicative of an “uptick” in mental health issues — instead, she said that mental health has always been an issue on students’ minds, but as of late, students are more “open about their experiences.”

“Mental health is an extremely salient issue and the advocacy and development surrounding it will and should continue to increase this semester,” Jirsa said. “Cornell is a place where mental health should be the primary focus of the University as well as the students because of our uniquely competitive, pressuring environment.”