This semester, the Student Mental Health Collective has launched a campaign to highlight student wellness, which aims to highlight one of each of the 8 dimensions of wellness per month — August was centered on resilience.
The SMHC is a vision that Bianca Beckwith ’23, who is also helping organize the collective, says began with students she met during her freshman year in 2018, namely Rachel Bradley ’21, the then-president of Cornell Minds Matter.
That vision informed the specific goal of creating a mental health collective on campus — a goal advocated for in the Cornell Mental Health Review, a comprehensive review of student mental health released semesterly.
This year, Katherine Gorton ’24 made this campaign a reality through working with the Office of Student and Campus Life.
Gorton’s involvement in mental health advocacy at Cornell began last summer with her work at The Sophie Fund, an Ithaca non-profit that supports mental health initiatives for youth in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Gorton created a comprehensive mental health resource guide supported by The Sophie Fund, which she distributed to Cornell students, professors and over 800 campus organizations.
Other organizations including Body Positive Cornell, Cornell Minds Matter, Empathy, Assistance, Referral Service and Reflect also helped sponsor the guide, and are involved in the SMHC. ALANA Intercultural Board, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, First-Generation Student Union, B.O.S.S. and Cornell Health International.
Gorton started the guide project because, as a first-year, she felt isolated and was not aware of various organizations and communities on campus that aimed to address mental health concerns.
“It’s important more than ever, given the COVID-19 pandemic, that new students know that they are supported and that there are communities of students that are here to support them,” Gorton wrote in a blog post for The Sophie Fund.
As a part of their “Wellness Wednesdays,” the Student and Campus Life Instagram page will highlight a student each week. These students share their experience and tips relating to mental health. Through this part of the campaign, the collective aims to destigmatize mental health conversations at Cornell.
Philly Latorre ’23 was the first student that the campaign spotlighted. Latorre shared her experience with depression and how a stressful fall semester of junior year made her realize she needed to address her mental health problem.
“I thought I’d be able to fix everything and feel normal immediately, but it took a lot of time and work that it’s only really now I feel like I’ve gotten myself to a better place,” Latorre said.
Jamaya Scott ’25 is another student whom the campaign recently spotlighted. Scott expressed her difficulty with transitioning to Cornell in her first year and shared tips for how she was able to take care of herself during this tough time. Scott said that interacting with clubs and communities to make friends and taking mental health days to prioritize her wellbeing have been especially helpful.
“When I’ve been having a particularly hard time during the school semester, or feel that I have not been able to catch my breath, I communicate with my professors and arrange a day in the week where I either do virtual class or do not attend class and prioritize myself,” Scott said.
Antonia Pellegrini ’23, the most recent student spotlighted, shared how she was able to find a community at Cornell.
“I have been incredibly lucky to find community in various forms throughout campus. One of the first ways I found community was by talking to the people in my classes,” Pellegrini said. “I found community by getting involved with extracurricular activities, such as EARS and the Big Red Marching Band.”
Beckwith and Gorton said they are hopeful that the campaign will continue throughout the rest of the academic year.
“I hope the University will continue to honor this commitment to support mental health and wellbeing advocacy orgs through social media promotion [as through the SCL campaign] as well as being ‘well-funded’ for our endeavors,” Beckwith wrote in a statement to The Sun.
Gorton said she hopes the campaign will raise more awareness in a way that is digestible for students and unify mental health organizations to leverage their power to make more events and resources available on campus.