At its annual congressional meeting last weekend, the UC Student Association launched a new campaign, #LetsTalk, aimed at improving mental health resources and campus culture for undergraduate students throughout the University of California.
The campaign, which will be carried out by student government leaders on their respective campuses, presses for more frequent access to counseling and improving diversity among counseling staff, according to Siavash Zohoori, a UC Santa Barbara senior and one of the authors of the initiative.
“This is a problem with all UC students — they can’t see services as much as they’d like,” Zohoori said. She said students sometimes have to wait three to four weeks before they can see their counselor and don’t always have someone to relate to among counseling staff.
Student government leaders will also lobby for UC Board of Regents policy reform and additional funding for mental health services from the California State Legislature.
UC Office of the President officials have reported an increase in the usage of counseling services across the UC system over the last five years. In the spring, UC Berkeley students approved a wellness referendum establishing a student fee that will expand mental health resources.
#LetsTalk is the newest of two concurrent UCSA campaigns for the upcoming school year. The other, UConsent, focuses on efforts to end sexual assault. #LetsTalk was chosen from six campaign proposals covering different areas of student reform.
“Everyone recognizes that the lack of resources for mental health on campus is a huge problem,” said Meghna Grover, a UC Berkeley senior who will serve as a student representative on Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health in the upcoming school year. “The more people who are talking about it, the better it is, as long as those entities are working together.”
Zohoori hopes that #LetsTalk will improve the campus climate for discussing mental illness and will facilitate communication between counselors and students. He has been advocating greater student health resources since he was present at close range during the 2014 Isla Vista shooting, in which the gunman was widely believed to have been struggling with mental illness.
“I try, knowing that I can use the experience and not let the experience use me,” Zohoori said. “My biggest hope is that all UC students will go to this website and hold themselves accountable.”
Student government representatives will meet in September to determine further organizational details of the campaign, according to Kevin Sabo, the ASUC director of legislative affairs, who was elected UCSA president at the meeting.
“We’re going to need to create solutions to address root causes rather than just responding to the consequences (of mental illness),” Sabo said. “That’s something I don’t think we’ve talked enough about.”