Thursday, February 18, 2016

MIT Tackle Mental Health

MIT witnessed seven suicides in two years.
And students there have decided to look for their own solutions to prevent more deaths.
Already, Massachusetts Institute of Technology have unveiled a sweeping plan to bolster mental health, bringing in more staff psychologists and expanding counseling hours, among other measures.
Students added their own ingenuity by starting a wave of grassroots projects intended to defuse the pressures of campus life before it leads to a crisis.
One group of students launched a texting hotline called Lean On Me this month, letting students chat anonymously with trained student volunteers about anything that’s troubling them.
Other students plan to install artificial light boxes on campus, meant to treat depression that can take hold during dreary months.
By her count, sophomore Izzy Lloyd has handed out more than 4,000 specially made wristbands that say TMAYD. It’s short for “tell me about your day,” a message that aims to get students talking with one another.
Lloyd started the project last year after two of her freshman classmates took their own lives in the same week.
Image credit: Tell Me About Your Day/Facebook
“It’s suicide prevention by community building,” said Lloyd, 19. “We’re showing people who may feel like they have nothing left that they have a world of people who do care about them.”
Other projects take a lighter tone, like the MIT Puppy Lab that will bring therapy dogs to campus this semester.
Campus officials too understood the magnitude of the problem and awarded almost $50,000 in grants to support campus projects meant to improve mental health. They say the new work is a reflection of MIT’s culture, marked by a drive to solve problems.
But students said they’re also meeting a demand for services that were missing on the campus of eleven thousand students.
“If we really solved the problem, we wouldn’t be running into this same cycle of mental illness that we’ve been seeing,” said Nikhil Buduma, who graduated last year and founded Lean On Me with two current students. The hotline, he added, lets students get help anonymously and avoid stigmas tied to mental illness.
Across the country, experts say, college students are playing a bigger role in suicide prevention. And more often, schools welcome that kind of help.
“We have found time and again that students listen to students before they listen to anyone else,” said Nance Roy, clinical director at the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit group based in New York that works to prevent suicide among college students. “These issues can no longer just fall to the counseling center.”
If only educational institutions in Malaysia embrace the above.

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