We spoke to two mental health groups at BU to find out more about their services

‘A lot of people have a misconception that if you aren’t struggling with serious depression or anxiety that your mental health is fine’

College is a stressful time for all involved. Tests, papers, midterms, and more mean constant pressure for students working towards a degree at universities across the nation. Boston University is no exception.

95 percent of college counseling center directors surveyed by the American Psychological Association said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern on their campus. 41.6 percent of students reported anxiety as their top concern in relation to their mental health, followed closely by 36.4 percent who cited depression.

Here at Boston University, there are multiple avenues to take when it comes to seeking help if you or someone you know may be struggling with the upkeep of their mental health. We spoke to two of them.

Julia Leber (CAS '18) is the co-chair of the Student Government affiliated Mental Health Committee here at BU.

Tell us about the MHC [Mental Health Committee]

It was Ramya Ravindrababu (CAS '17) who originally founded it because she found a need for a more localized point for students who are interested in mental health. There are so many student groups on campus that are related to mental health and we wanted an umbrella organization to tie the other groups together. We found the best way to do that was through student government because of their connection with administration and the opportunity for more funds. We try to meet and organize different events as a larger group and support the smaller organizations in their separate events

What is the ASFP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) Out of the Darkness Walk and how has the BU Mental Health Committee participated in it?

The Out of the Darkness walk functions to raise awareness for suicide. Originally another student on campus Mina Botros ('17) sent us an email asking if the committee would be interested in [the AFSP Walk], and asked if the committee could aid in planning it. […] It was really cool having him reach out to us, like we were a real resource. We were still so new at the time and he reached out to us over winter break. I didn't think anyone knew about us yet. I'm glad he realized we could be a resource for advocacy for mental health.

The Mental Health Committee is planning a self-care event this year, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Recently the SAO [Student Activities Office] reached out to us because they have money left in their budget [this year]. They said they wanted to have a barbeque on the BU beach on the same day as we were planning our self-care event, so they wanted to collaborate with us. Hopefully it'll be the biggest end of the year self-care event on campus. It's barbeque style, we are planning on having manicurist, a ball pit, possibly dogs. It'll be May 3rd. We don't know specific details yet because we're still trying to organize it. It's a great opportunity to get the MHC's name out as part of BU Student Government.

The Mental Health Committee, one of the newer committees in Boston University's Student Government, is just one resource on campus. Below is another – Active Minds BU.

We spoke with Caitlin Stavish – the President of BU’s chapter of Active Minds, an organization dedicated to improving mental health on college campuses and any stigmas surrounding mental health in general, specifically within a student body.

What does Active Minds do on campus, specifically for students at BU?

Active Minds BU is part of a larger national organization – Active Minds. The organization itself is dedicated to changing the stigma around the mental health of students on college campuses. We work with Boston University’s Student Government Mental Health Committee to create policy for better mental health on campus and we host events on campus like Break the Silence and Sound Out Stigma. Events like Break the Silence and others are about personal experiences that provide a safe space for students to come to – something Active Minds BU tries to do in general. It really helps for people to have a community that they can understand each other in.

Active Minds BU held an event a little while ago on the BU Beach called Send Silence Packing – how did it go, what was the purpose, and what did the event specifically focus on?

Send Silence Packing was an event that was held to start a dialogue about mental health on college campuses. At least 1000 students take their lives on college campuses every year, and sometimes it’s covered up by colleges for the privacy of families or for administrative purposes, but it should be talked about. It may not be known, but there are suicides every year on Boston University’s campus. An event like Send Silence Packing is a way to provide resources for people who are struggling while getting the message out there. 1000 backpacks were placed on the BU Beach to represent each of those students who commit suicide on a college campus each year, some held letters from family and friends, some held personal items – ⅕ of the backpacks were owned by the students who committed suicide and are sometimes contributed to on a yearly basis by their families. The backpacks were surrounded by positive messages to let students know that they aren’t alone.

What do you think the importance of mental health is on college campuses in general, at BU?

A lot of people have a misconception that if you aren’t struggling with serious depression or anxiety that your mental health is fine. College is an extremely stressful place, and on every level students need to take care of themselves but it isn’t always that easy. Just because you don’t think you have it as bad as other people, doesn’t mean your mental health isn’t affected. You don’t need to have medication to work on your mental health – it’s like having a cold versus having the flu. Both affect your health and both should be treated and acknowledged.

Is there anything else you’d like to add or a final message you have about mental health on college campuses?

I’d like people to know that you don’t need to be struggling with a severe mental illness to work on your mental health.

The common message coming from both of these resources is important to take note of: Every year, if not every few months we go to a health service or medical provider for a physical exam, but sometimes we forget to check in on our mental health. If you are a student on a college campus, take care of your mental health as you would your physical.

If you are a Boston University Student, reach out to organizations like Active Minds BU, or the Student Government Mental Health Committee. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, contact Behavioral Medicine at 617-353-3569. If you're a Tab BU reader from outside the BU campus, do not be afraid to reach out to your college or university's mental health services. As Caitlin Stavish of Active Minds BU put it, "you don’t need to be struggling with a severe mental illness to work on your mental health."