Terriers Thrive Together Series Encourages Students to Talk about Mental Health
Dozens of campus-wide events planned by student groups
Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, college students were reporting higher rates of depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show these issues have only increased since March—63 percent of college-age Americans show signs of having an anxiety or depressive disorder, and one quarter say they have seriously considered suicide in the last month.
At BU, administrators and student leaders are all too aware of this issue. So for the month of October, Student Government’s Mental Health Committee (MHC) is hosting a series of virtual events, called Terriers Thrive Together, to promote self-care and well-being on campus. The University is drawing attention to many of its own events and resources during the month as well, as part of the Wellbeing Project, which launched last year and is run by the Office of the Provost. Its goal is to support the health and wellness of the BU student body.
Katharine Mooney (SPH’12), director of Wellness & Prevention Services at Student Health Services, says Terriers Thrive Together is a community effort by faculty, staff, and students to bring visibility to student health and wellness. After all, students are struggling in all kinds of ways right now. “They’re lonely, worried, and stressed, and it’s OK to not feel like yourself,” Mooney says. “Show yourself the same kind of kindness and grace that you might show to a friend, because everyone is doing the best they can.”
MHC cochairs Dania Haj-Darwish (CAS’22) and Savannah Majarwitz (CAS’22) have planned events such as educational seminars and town hall–style discussions, as well as less formal conversations about well-being aimed to teach students self-care techniques.
Normally, mental health month is in May, Majarwitz points out, but the MHC felt it was important to hold Terriers Thrive Together sooner, given the current challenging mental climate. What’s more, National Depression Screening Day is October 8 (look for BU Today’s story Thursday with more information about this year’s virtual format), and World Mental Health Day is October 10.
Terriers Thrive Together events include panel discussions on mental health and diversity, sexual assault awareness (cohosted by the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center [SARP] and MHC), athletes and mental health, and a town hall event hosted by the MHC and the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Mental Health Collective (BIPOCMHC). It will also feature healthy relationships workshops, stress-reducing events like virtual yoga and a cathartic poetry reading, and healthy cooking tutorials. Find links to the full calendar of events here and here.
BIPOCMHC coleaders Kesha Perkins (CAS’21) and Angelee Verdieu (Sargent’21, SPH’22) formed their group after a meeting of Umoja, BU’s Black student union, last spring, when members said they would like to see BIPOC therapists working at Behavioral Medicine. Perkins offered to start a petition to change this, and almost 2,000 people signed.
“It is so important for BIPOC students to have their own group,” Verdieu says, because everyone should “feel like they have their own space. The one space that BU can offer may not work for everyone.”
“We’re also establishing lists with tips for communication styles,” Perkins says, “so it deals with issues like how to talk to your roommate when you have therapy, if you need privacy in the room and don’t feel comfortable sharing the exact reason, and if you’re at home, now your parents are your roommates, too. So, how does that work when you’re trying to establish boundaries?”
BIPOCMHC runs a blog that writer Purafé Eastman (CAS’22) updates weekly, as well as an Instagram page that shares resources and weekly self-care tips, taking into account high-trigger situations such as holidays and current events. On the Instagram account’s Story feature, they ask followers to send the self-care tips that work for them, and they share those with the page’s followers.
In addition to the town hall with the MHC and their communication resources, Perkins and Verdieu plan to host a conversation about ethnicity and generational mental health and compile resources for indigenous people on Indigenous Peoples Day (also known as Columbus Day), which falls next Monday.
The MHC cochairs reached out to almost every student organization so they could fill the month with events offering something for everyone, no matter their interests and needs. The goal is to reach as many students as they can, and they believe its virtual format will help them do this. “It made sense to make everything virtual because we want something like this—events focused on mental health—to reach as many people as possible,” says Majarwitz. “The events don’t have that 25-person limit” (the state’s mandate for indoor gatherings).
Although both Haj-Darwish and Majarwitz realize that doing these events virtually may mean that people have a harder time forming personal connections with others, they hope the increased number of events helps make up for that.
“We’re bringing all sorts of people together to talk about one collective topic, which is mental health,” Haj-Darwish says. “I think it’s going to be super eye-opening, because we’re going to hear different perspectives and diversify the topic a lot more.”