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USG organizes 3rd annual Mental Health Week

Princeton’s third annual Mental Health Week has taken a more interactive approach this year to increase awareness of mental health issues on campus.

USG offered a variety of activities that gave students the opportunity to send postcards, make inspirational posts and t-shirts, receive free massages, take mood-screening tests and attend a variety of workshops and talks related to mental health, USG president Shawon Jackson ’15 said.

“One of the major changes has been moving away from speakers and having more engaging activities for students,” Jackson explained. “This has been one of the projects that USG has received a lot of positive feedback for.”

The Princeton Mental Health Initiative Board, which was formed this February, planned the week’s events and will continue to hold programs throughout the year, Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15, chair of the board, said. This week’s events were designed to address three major goals: improving access to campus resources, reducing the stigma surrounding seeking help and creating a constructive dialogue necessary for a supportive campus community, he said.

The board will hold a strategic planning session to map out its missions and goals for the rest of the year, Okuda-Lim said.

One key event was the Whig-Clio debate, in which students debated whether Princeton is “failing mental health.”

One of the two debaters on the Whig side, the liberal of the organization, Paul Yang ’17, shared his thoughts on the importance of mental health and the long wait times required when scheduling an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services.

“The University fails to bring up mental health as an issue of sufficient gravity,” Yang said. “If you’re able to, for instance, get pregnancy tested every time you go to McCosh, shouldn’t you also be able to get counseling every time you go to McCosh?”

Even though in the debate Yang was defending the resolution that the University is failing mental health, he emphasized that excessive criticism of CPS could make students feel uncomfortable going to McCosh for help, which is not the intention of these discussions.

“You don’t want to demonize the psychological counseling services,” Yang said.

Okadu-Lin said that, given the recent debate over students being forced to take time off for mental health-related reasons, there needs to be a discussion about the way that the University responds to students who are facing serious mental health issues and may be at risk of hurting themselves or others.

“We’re grateful for all the University has in terms of its resources, but I think we also understand that there’s always room for improvement,” Okadu-Lin said.

Jackson said that another key event of the week featured photographer Steven Rosenfield, who continued his “What I Be” photography project on campus. Students were able to participate in the project by discussing their insecurities with Rosenfield, who then helped them develop a phrase to write on their skin before photographing them.

Okuda-Lim said he is optimistic that this week has triggered discussions around campus about issues surrounding mental health.

“I’m confident that we’ve, in small increments, been able to help move the campus conversation beyond one where students might be afraid to be themselves, to one where students know there’s a supportive community and that they don’t have to be afraid,” Okuda-Lim said.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misstated the name of Zhan Okuda-Lim. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error. 

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