Welcome to the ‘State of the Heights,’ a new Gavel column focusing on exposing the student body to the inner workings of UGBC. This week’s column focuses on Mental Health and Well-being at Boston College. The next State of the Heights will focus on Civic Engagement and Voting. If you have any questions which you would like answered by representatives from UGBC on this topic, please send them to [email protected] with “State of the Heights” in the subject line.
The Gavel: Why is mental health such a priority for UGBC? What from your experiences at Boston College made you want to pursue this?
Marchese: For me, mental health and mental well-being and all of the topics that pertain to both are not discussed enough. Since freshman year, I have discovered that BC students work very hard and involve themselves in a lot of activities, but one of the things that we do not do enough of is taking care of our mental well-being.
Last year, when we were running, we heard from so many people who knew that it was an issue, but were not talking about it and that opened my eyes and I knew that we had to do something.
Fiore-Chettiar: The reason it is a priority for us is that, along with personal experience, we know the stories of so many students on campus. This year in UGBC there are many people who are passionate about destigmatizing mental health because there are so many who are affected by it.
The Gavel: What do you hope to accomplish at the end of your term this year?
Fiore-Chettiar: We hope to have promoted discussion in various ways. BC Ignites is on September 24th and is our kickstart to our mental health initiative which we are calling Be Conscious. We also have a new mental health blog up to provide students with new content and stories regarding mental health.
Marchese: The ultimate ends of this initiative are to 1) connect students with resources that are already on campus while increasing the amount of resources available, 2) end the stigmatization around mental health, and 3) create a community that is supportive and open.
The Gavel: The new UGBC mental health website also features some of The Gavel’s Authentic Eagles stories. What is it in those testimonies that you want students to take away after they have read them?
Marchese: Ultimately, when students read these stories, they connect with them and that is the most powerful thing: when we realize that we are not alone. I read some of those articles and think, “I could have written that.” So we want students to understand that at a school with 9,100 undergraduates, they are not alone. We want to motivate them to have these conversations and to seek out help if they need it.
We have a campus where people think you have to be perfect all the time and you have to do everything right or you are a failure by BC standards and that is just not healthy. So being “authentic”, as the pieces suggest, and reflecting inwardly is really healthy.
The Gavel: You also made it a point to emphasize mental health and well-being as opposed to mental illness. Could you elaborate on why making that distinction was so important to you?
Fiore-Chettiar: Mental illness is very important, but it is a part of mental health and we do not want to be addressing a part when we can address the whole because it all matters. It is about all of our daily experiences and how they affect us and shape us as people.
Marchese: It is also important to remember that when people hear “mental illness” they think, “Oh that’s not me” and “I don’t have depression.” But we all have mental health and it is a spectrum of where you are on that. How are you feeling day in and day out, what are your moods, how are you interacting with others. Those are the issues we have to deal with.
The Gavel: As you mentioned earlier, BC Ignites is on September 24th. What has the response from students been like? What can they expect at the event?
Fiore-Chettiar: The response has been great. We have actually gotten in a lot of applications which is wonderful. Students can expect to hear other students telling their stories and providing space for them to connect and take part in the discussion.
Marchese: It is a very emotional event. I went to the first one and it hits very deep and I think that is the power of the event. There are a lot of events on campus where you can gain knowledge and awareness, but I don’t know how many you can go to that make you feel as deeply as this event does.
Thank you so much for reading this edition of State of the Heights! Please remember to submit questions to the Gavel via email at [email protected]. And please attend BC Ignites next Wednesday 7pm at O’Neill Plaza.