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Editorial: A community for mental health

As snow blanketed Brown’s campus this past weekend, it marked one of the many firsts of the semester.

Maybe this weekend, you finally had a conversation that went beyond, “How was your break?” Perhaps you are a senior shopping one of fabled Adjunct Professor Emeritus of Engineering Barrett Hazeltine’s GP’15 courses. Maybe you had made a New Year’s resolution to workout more often but indulged in a Blue Room muffin.

Despite the excitement of coming back to campus, January is often laden with anxiety and trepidation: Will I become overwhelmed like last semester? Can I stay on top of my reading? Am I really worthy of being here? These questions can swirl and multiply in our minds, leading to dark thoughts and bouts of depression. Coupled with blizzards, freezing winds and lack of sunlight, the beginning of the spring semester can be the most difficult point of the year for students.

While conversations about mental health have become increasingly common across college campuses, they can sometimes leave us feeling numb. In principle, taking care of oneself is of the utmost importance. But in the day-to-day experience of being a Brown student — shuffling between club meetings, professors’ office hours and a job or two — taking care of oneself is pushed to the back burner.

To those students who may carry feelings of depression, alienation or isolation, you are not alone. According to information provided to the Undergraduate Council of Students by Counseling and Psychological Services Director Sherri Nelson, “25 percent of students have previously been medicated for a mental health condition before entering campus, and 40 percent have previously sought counseling. But only 17 percent of the student body utilizes (CAPS) each year.” A disparity exists between students who require access to mental health resources and those who take advantage of them — a gap that is perpetuated by social stigma, cultural and class dynamics and overburdened University resources.

At the last UCS meeting of last semester, students vowed to prioritize improving mental health support on campus. But resources are ultimately limited by a student’s willingness to seek them out. Often, it falls on friends and family to identify signals of internal struggles. As a community of overachievers and dedicated students, we owe it to each other to take care of one another. Brown holds a long history of peer advising and a rich legacy of kind and loving community members. Notice changes in your friends’ schedules or routines. Listen to one another’s problems without feeling the pressure or need to give advice or offer a solution. Simply allowing others to open up can be the first step in assisting them.

Encourage each other to speak to someone, whether that’s a psychotherapist at CAPS, a dean during office hours, a Residential Peer Leader or a Community Director. There is no surefire or quick method to improving one’s mental health, but if as a community we are cognizant and proactive in supporting and reassuring one another, we can provide the foundation for true mental health reform.

We are expecting a major storm this week. For some people, it involves more than just a few feet of snow on the ground.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Zoila Bergeron ’17, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15 and Katherine Pollock ’16. Send comments to


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