How R U? UC Students Begin Mental Health Campaign


Gwendolyn Wu
AS Beat Reporter

Over the summer, the University of California Student Association (UCSA) announced that their 2015-2016 undergraduate campaign would be “#HowAreYou: A Call to Reform Student Mental Health Services”, which aims to bring awareness to the state of mental health in the University of California. As fall quarter begins, students throughout the UC system are working to bring the campaign to life.

As stated on a brainstorming poster at the summer UC Student Congress meeting, “Mental health is a universal issue among the UCs. Lack of funding, diversity, accessibility, availability, and visibility severely compromises the quality of overall services, making students less likely to reach out and get the help they need.” UC students often face problems when trying to get an appointment with a counselor, or finding a mental health counselor or peer who they feel comfortable speaking with. It can also be difficult to find someone to speak with face-to-face when necessary, given the limited hours that services like CAPS are open and, at some UCs, the limited amount of times a student can visit.

“#HowAreYou” endeavors to eliminate as many of these problems as possible. Given the lack of support for those identifying as students of color, queer, or non-traditional, supporters of the campaign wish to bring in more staff who identify similarly to students.

The campaign will be enacted at each individual UC campus via the efforts of their governing body. At UCSB, External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Mohsin Mirza’s office will be working on the project throughout the year, alongside statewide campaign coordinator and UCSB student Siavash Zohoori, a fourth year majoring in economics and sociology.

“I think that UCSB does a really good job in terms of providing care,” Zohoori said. “One of the things I think we can improve on is our wait times. I think a lot of our student populations are underrepresented, and this has to do with a lack of communication between the Office of Student Life and the director of CAPS.”

Zohoori attributed part of the problem to a lack of full-time staff for a diverse student population, along with a lack of transparency from administrators on campus. Certain student populations have had to push to have counselors who are also members of the same populations, and some continue to struggle to find peers or counselors who share similar backgrounds or experiences. As a result, some feel like students should already have the resources they need, rather than need to petition for it.

To that end, Zohoori and the students behind the campaign are hoping that “#HowAreYou” will push schools to be more compassionate and open to working with students. While there are no current plans for a specific event or project on the UCSB campus, campaign workers at all the UC schools are working on diagnosing the state of the mental health climate on their campuses. Each campus is being graded on a rubric that includes criteria such as average counseling/psychological services wait times and how these services have failed students. Each school will then individually create a development plan from there.

“#HowAreYou” provides a step toward the UC’s mission of affordability and accountability, according to Zohoori. “Ideally, I’d really like to increase our standard of care,” Zohoori said, “and ultimately what I really love about this name is that it really encompasses this idea of improving campus climate. Just one thing I want to see out of the UC is an improved campus climate where everyone seeking [care] has their needs met.”

Initially titled “Let’s Talk,” UCSB student delegates at the UC Student Congress meeting worked with other UC students to provide goals for the system. The campaign was chosen out of six pitched at the meeting.

In a statement on the UCSA Facebook page, incoming UCSA President Kevin Sabo said, “Both #LetsTalk and the grad student agenda reflect widely felt frustration by students that their holistic wellness is ignored. We will be relentless advocates because we know that for students to thrive, they must first be able to survive.”

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This article has been updated to reflect current information.