Student groups take on mental health issues

April 2, 2015, 2:25 p.m.
The ASSU Emotional Well-being team hosted a de-stress fest at the end of winter quarter (Courtesy of Jacob Dalder).
The ASSU Emotional Well-being team hosted a de-stress fest at the end of winter quarter (Courtesy of Jacob Dalder).

Several student groups on campus have been working on providing the Stanford community with support in mental health issues. Ultimately, these groups hope to provide a space for students to deal with any problems they might be experiencing as a result of mental health issues. The groups also try to offer fun, open spaces for students to express themselves.


What have they been up to?

The Happiness Collective, led by senior Jacob Gardner, mainly works on carrying out random acts of kindness through “pop-up events” on campus to help brighten students’ days.

“[We’re] devoted to helping the greater Stanford community to slow down, be happy, enjoy each other’s company and spread happiness and compassion in fun and interesting ways,” Gardner said.

Some other events held this year included group members shouting out compliments to passersby and filling a kiddie pool with balls on which were written different questions to start conversations. People were encouraged to sit in the ball pit and ask each other these questions, in order to get to know each other better.

“You wouldn’t necessarily get to know something like that about someone unless they were answering a funny question,” Gardner said.

Stanford Peace of Mind (SPoM) has also worked on helping students with mental health issues in the past, particularly in helping to fight the stigma associated with mental health issues. According to president Nikita Desai ’15, the group aims to start conversations among students regarding their experiences with mental health issues through panels held at dorms.

The ASSU has also put greater emphasis on this issue this year. According to Desai, who is also one of the co-directors of the ASSU Mental Health subcommittee, they are focused on driving policy change at an institutional level. The Emotional Wellbeing subcommittee works on event-based initiatives to address mental health issues on campus, and the Athletic Mental Health subcommittee aims to address the psychological conflicts athletes encounter on campus.

Abby Belani ’15, the head of the ASSU Emotional Wellbeing division, joined the group in order to make changes on campus at a more systemic level.

“I wanted to [help] create a narrative for the campus as a whole that was a little more accepting of emotionality and things like failure,” Belani said, adding that she hopes to normalize conversations around mental health, which she does not see happening often on campus.

The Emotional Wellbeing team has mainly been working on their Release.Restart series, which includes a literary anthology as well as spoken word and art workshops, which aim to help students express their mental conflicts in artistic ways.

“Art is quite often used for people as an outlet for emotional struggles in times of turmoil,” Bellani said. “And so we wanted to sort of showcase that in order get people talking more about emotionality.”

In late February, the ASSU hosted a town hall with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) where students shared their experiences with mental health and discuss ways to improve and increase support for mental health on campus.


Looking Forward

The Happiness Collective will be organizing a Happiness Carnival that will take place this quarter. The carnival will consist of games, food and music and potentially big human hamster balls for students to play with.

After many concerns were raised in a survey released by the ASSU and the CAPS town hall, the ASSU Mental Health task force has been in conversation with Student Affairs and Vaden.

“Based on the analysis [of the responses], we devised a series of projects to work on,” Desai said. “One project that is actually ready for implementation now […] is implementing PHE-run tours of CAPS for all freshmen starting the fall of 2015 [so freshmen] feel like [CAPS] is a little bit more accessible, are more familiar with it and hopefully also have more clarity surrounding how they would go about getting help from CAPS.”

The Mental Health team is also reviewing a project which would include the 24/7 crisis number for CAPS as well as several other resources on the backs of student ID cards. Another project is having a detailed flowchart of mental health resources on campus.

The Emotional Wellbeing Team put on a De-Stress Fest in White Plaza on the last day of dead week last quarter.  At the event, students had the opportunity to play with therapy dogs as well as have free coffee and ice cream.

“We know how stressful of a time [dead week] is obviously because we’re going through it too,” Belani said. “And so [we’re] just sort of working to make sure that people are feeling supported and feeling a little less stressed out during that time. So that’s sort of a happy break to look forward to.”


Contact Sevde Kaldiroglu at sevde ‘at’


Sevde Kaldiroglu ’17 is a sophomore hoping to double major in English (Creative Writing) and Psychology. She was raised in Istanbul, Turkey, and decided to come to Stanford to pursue her passion of writing. A staff writer for the student groups beat at the Stanford Daily, Sevde is also the editor-in-chief of Avicenna - The Stanford Journal on Muslim Affairs. She also enjoys swings, drinking Turkish coffee, and fortune-telling. To contact Sevde, email her at sevde ‘at’

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