ASUC senators talk progress on campus mental health initiatives

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It’s commonly acknowledged that UC Berkeley is not always the smoothest ride when it comes to the mental health of its students. To combat such challenges, ASUC senators are working to provide students with the resources to manage stress.

Teddy Lake, one of such senators, is bringing an “art as therapy,” as she called it, movement to the mental health conversation at UC Berkeley. While facing her own mental health challenges in high school, she said that creative outlets provided her with healthy distraction and emotional release. Her initiatives with this ongoing project focus on a written publication, editorial photo shoots and crafty activities to engage students’ voices through art.

“I thought that it was a really natural fit to create space for … art to be made by folks who enjoy therapeutic relief by creating, and then for it to be consumed by … folks who look like them and see the world the way they do,” Lake said. She stressed the importance of such a practice for the campus’s LGBTQ+ community, noting that “queer and trans people have a rich history of being involved in arts of all kinds.”

At the same time, Lake is also working with other ASUC senators on improving programs that already exist. Many senators hope to change the fact that so many of these resources go unrecognized by much of the campus community.

In the latest ASUC election, many candidates addressed the invisibility of mental health resources to students on campus. Since then, progress has been made to expand the dialogue surrounding mental health and shed light on underutilized programs on campus.

“Resources don’t matter if they’re invisible, and I think that’s the big problem right now,” Lake said. “Folks don’t know what (UC Berkeley has) to offer. I just found out about half the mental health resources we have this year, largely because of my work in the senate.”

Lake is pushing for increased visibility of campus mental health resources in freshman orientation programs such as Golden Bear Orientation and Fall Program for Freshmen, or FPF. Lake believes that FPF students receive an especially inadequate introduction to available campus mental health resources. She hopes to increase that visibility to this group.

ASUC Senator Saakshi Goel spoke on her own concerns with the visibility, or lack thereof, of campus mental health resources. “They’re just not marketed enough,” Goel said. “There’s not enough conversation surrounding the resources we have on campus.” This upcoming spring, Goel plans to work on highlighting the PATH to Care Center, a UC Berkeley office that offers support for survivors of gendered violence.

In May of this year, the Mental Health Coalition joined forces with the ASUC to create the ASUC Mental Health Commission. The Commission uses social media to promote sponsored workshops and tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Last month, Nikhil Harish, one of the senators heading the commission, announced via Facebook an ASUC movement geared toward supporting mental health in the South Asian community. A list was posted containing resources in the Bay Area catered toward South Asian-identifying individuals.

While these initiatives are positive steps, the programs on campus that generally receive significant attention are lighthearted events such as Llama Therapy and De-stress with Dogs. “We weren’t trying to cure anything in one day,” Goel said of these animal therapy programs. “We were just trying to do something a little more positive.”

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected] .