‘End the stigma’: Campus, city talk mental health awareness

Photo of Berkeley Mental Health Building
Caroline Lobel/Staff
For Mental Health Awareness Month, UC Berkeley organizations and the city of Berkeley are working to increase accessibility to resources and spread awareness about community efforts to uplift mental health.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, sparking conversations about resource accessibility and destigmatization among UC Berkeley health services, student-led organizations and the city of Berkeley.

Campus spokesperson Tami Cate emphasized University Health Services’ efforts this month to promote the multitude of resources for mental health and wellbeing on campus.

“Mental Health Awareness month also coincides with RRR and finals week, so we are hoping these reminders and resources reach students who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed as they head into the end of the semester,” Cate said in an email. 

Student-led organizations are also taking initiative this month.

The ASUC Mental Health Commission held its third annual Mental Health Day on April 28, lining Sproul Plaza with student-led mental health organizations, according to internal director Daniella Ivanir.

Ivanir noted the event’s success in generating volunteer sign-ups and casual conversations, which left students with a better understanding of available resources. Organizations present included The Berkeley Group, the Path to Care Center, Student-to-Student Peer Counseling and Lean On Me at UC Berkeley.

Ivanir also serves as the founder and chief executive of Lean On Me at UC Berkeley, an anonymous 24-hour texting hotline for students. The student-run hotline supplements campus mental health resources using what she claims is a “unique perspective.”

“Our main mission is to lower the barrier of entry to mental health access and make it as approachable as possible in order to destigmatize getting support,” Ivanir said. 

The Muslim Mental Health Initiative at UC Berkeley also offers free, anonymous drop-in consultations to all students regardless of faith, according to its executive director Qazi Ahmad. The organization will host a destressing event May 6 to celebrate Eid al-Fitr.

Additionally, University Health Services provides crisis resources, hotlines and free services to students like Headspace and myStrength, according to Cate. Campus Counseling and Psychological Services also provides drop-in or scheduled counseling sessions.

The city of Berkeley has its own mental health resources available to all community members.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín explained that Berkeley’s Mental Health Division allows the city to customize its resources to meet community needs.

“Berkeley’s mental health has a significant focus on increasing access to mental health services, offering walk-in hours, operating a daytime mental health crisis line, and, for several decades, having a mobile crisis team,” Arreguín said in an email.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn noted that resource accessibility is a major community issue intensified by social isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hahn added that providing resources for unhoused residents and those with mental illnesses is a top priority for Berkeley.

“A good place to start is by making sure we deploy mental health professionals to support people in crisis, to supplement any police response,” Hahn said in an email. “We need to focus on providing meaningful care and end the stigma of mental health.”

Contact Lily Button at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @lilybutton27.