Throughout this semester, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College has been working on a series of new initiatives aimed at expanding access to mental health resources on campus. Members of UGBC’s executive and legislative branches have also worked to market existing resources to the student body.
“We’re always looking for ways where we can better support each other as a student body and as a campus community in addressing health,” Michael Osaghae, UGBC president and MCAS ’20, said. “And to do that…we’re spearheading various campaigns around mental health and working with campus partners to plan events that will look at mental health through a variety of angles.”
UGBC is currently working to resolve is the limited number of counselors and psychiatrists available to students on campus, according to Osaghae. Students are often forced to wait a week or two after making an appointment to talk to a counselor, Osaghae said.
“In the conversations we’ve had, the administration has been very receptive, especially with regards to mental health. I think that we all need to do a better job of being proactive in the campaigns and programs we offer,” Osaghae said. “But also like making sure that folks on campus, engage with the resources that we currently have.”
Osaghae noted that students sometimes seek counseling off campus because University Counseling Services (UCS) employs 17 available counselors and psychiatrists. UGBC is working to provide subsidized transportation for off campus mental health service, he said.
“These are structural challenges across higher education, and again in the past within UGBC we have talked and raised with our campus community and UCS. And like we all need to do more to support each other as a campus community,” Osaghae said.
Two UGBC senators, Ashley Stauber, MCAS ’20 and Quinn O’Connor, MCAS ’21, have also resolved to push conversations about mental health to the front of campus consciousness.
“Mental health sometimes gets put on the back burner, not just at BC but at universities around the world,” Stauber said. “Everyone’s mental health is different and it is important for students to know that they have the resources to reach out to.”
One of the resources they highlighted is Lean on Me, a national peer-to-peer texting hotline that launched at BC last year. Students can text the number and are anonymously placed in contact with a trained BC student who can provide support.
The senators also emphasized that the push for more mental health resources isn’t a sign that the administration is pursuing solutions on its own as well.
“A big misperception is that like BC only has  on-campus counselors, [meaning] they’re not trying to help,” Stauber said. “But I think that is unfair. Instead we need to take a collaborative stance in working with the administration to fortify our mental health resources. A main goal that I have is really kicking off those conversations with [UCS Director Craig Burns] so that we can support him and find out what he thinks will be most helpful.”
O’Connor and Stauber said they recognize that mental health issues are not unique to BC. Campuses all across the country are experiencing an increase in demand for mental health services and do not have the resources equipped to accommodate their students’ needs, they said.
“There’s a mental health crisis in this country where people our age are needing a lot of support, and there’s a lot of mental health issues so the universities are just swamped,” O’Connor said. I think BC could be doing a lot more, but every university is hurting.”
One of the initiatives in the works for next semester is a UGBC-sponsored mental health panel composed of various speakers who would discuss the importance of open conversation about mental health on college campuses.
“I think we could do more organizing to get student voices heard about like how dire it is that we need this,” O’Connor said. “And just because like we’ve talked a lot about ways the university could deal with like student deaths. In the last year we had unfortunately a lot of students die and a lot of suicide[s], and a lot of students don’t feel like the University is really adequately giving kids the resources to do that.”
Osaghae emphasized that students should do their part to support each other and make mental health a more prominent topic of discussion.
“I think it’s our job as students as folks caring for the whole person to try and drive better avenues for folks to engage with mental health, in a real and critical fashion,” Osaghae said. “And I think we have to do a better job as campus community to make sure that this is something that is addressed constantly.”
Featured Image By Jonathan Yee /Heights Senior Staff