A.S. Hosts Second Annual Mental Health Conference

Numerous speakers came to the Mental Health Conference. (Jack Shea/Staff Photographer)

Jack Shea
Staff Writer

Associated Students’ second mental health conference challenged the UCSB community to continue its support for psychological wellness and growth.

Addressing mental health presents social challenges. Being in a community to speak openly about the issues makes UCSB unique, at least according to some of the conference panelists last Sunday. The conference utilized all three stories of the Student Resources Building, with over 250 attendees.

“I think we’re having more discussions on it [mental health] now,” said CAPS Psychology Intern Pauline Venieris, M.A. and keynote speaker at the conference. Venieris shared a panel with fellow CAPS staff member Karen Dias, Psy.D, providing students the chance to learn from their experiences as mental health professionals.

The conference serves as a reminder of the type of community UCSB students have created because the conference is led, run, and organized by students themselves. “Students are really engaged on their own to care about their own services and to make the academic institution more inclusive,” said Venieris.

The UCSB community’s support for its mental health conference exemplifies a positive evolution in campus culture. “I think there are more opportunities to dialogue in an honest way, and I think it’s a really positive trend that we see now,” said Venieris. Students at the conference, coming out on a weekend to have discussions on mental health, construct continuation of this trend’s progression.

The conference assembled as a platform to address the diversification of psychological needs amongst an ever growing student population. Students today are “defined by the highest levels of stress and anxiety compared to any prior generation,” according to an article in the journal of “New Directions for Student Services” published last December. Stress, anxiety, and the current political climate imply new mental health demands on the UCSB community.

The conference hosted several panels, ranging from an individual’s experience with OCD to understanding activism’s role in mental health. Students were given plenty of chances to network with fellow mental health activists on campus and from other UC campuses.

UCSB, a world renowned research institution, sets an example for how research can change a community’s atmosphere. For example, the psychological and brain sciences research transcends from its laboratories to the popular interests of UCSB’s students. This is seen in the activity on campus and many student clubs, advocating for mental health.

“UCSB is a leader when it comes to mental health advocacy on campus,” said Madison Frame, a fourth-year psychology major and Mental Health Coordinator for AS Office of the President.

UCSB says that it values innovation at many levels and continues keeping mental health needs a priority, a UC objective.

“Our goal is to normalize the conversation around mental health. We want people to be able to support each other and just want to further that connection between people, the confidence to reach out to someone and be there for them,” said Frame.