By Staff Writers Stephanie Dutra & Evie Sun
MSJ’s Mental Health Committee, a newly-formed student-organized committee that brainstorms how to combat mental health, hosted their first Mental Health Panel on May 16 in C-120. At the panel, current students, alumni, and mental health professionals spoke about their experiences with mental health.
Formed this year, the Mental Health Committee it is led by Junior Mallika Gupta and Seniors Lucille Njoo and Michelle Zhang. The committee held the panel to reduce the stigma around mental health and let students know that they’re not alone in their struggles with mental health. The speakers at the event included Juniors Emily Chang and Brandon Do and Senior Ana Singh. In addition, the panel featured mental health professionals Dr. Amanda Morrison, a clinical psychologist from CSU East Bay, Roshelle Ogundele from Stanford University for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Dr. Helen Hsu from the City of Fremont Youth and Family Services. The Committee also invited MSJ alumni, including Class of 2016 Alumnae Didi Wu, Harshita Gupta, and Deborah Chen and Class of 2013 Alumna Noa Kretchmer, to present their experiences and opinions on mental health.
During each panel, the six speakers began by explaining why they decided to participate in the panel, with half of the speakers additionally sharing their personal stories regarding mental health. All students were given index cards to privately write down any questions that they had for the panelists, and members of the committee collected the cards throughout the panel to ask the panelists anonymous questions from the student body.
Members of the Mental Health Committee prompted discussions regarding mental health, including the stigma around it, how to treat and cope with it, and other questions that sparked personal narratives about mental health issues. The speakers addressed a variety of topics, ranging from academic stress and anxiety to clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Senior Ana Singh, who spoke about her experiences with anxiety and depression during her junior year, offered advice about dealing with mental health at the panel. She said, “If you do have mental illness, don’t hesitate in reaching out — you can talk to friends, counselors, school psychologists, teachers — really, everyone’s just there to listen to you, so the worst thing you can do is to just keep it to yourself.” In addition, Morrison said, “I guess what advice I have is to not beat yourself up and think that you’re alone in experiencing mental health issues. I think most people know this now, but maybe not, but about 50 percent of people in their lifetime will experience some kind of mental health issue.”
The Mental Health Committee will now become a permanent part of MSJ. By hosting the mental health panel, the committee hoped to provide new perspectives and insights that would ignite a discussion within the MSJ community so the students and the school become a part of the solution for the mental health issues at MSJ. “We hope that, through this panel, students would be able to engage in an actual discussion, and the reason we asked for them to come with their English classes was so that they went to this panel together, so they could continue on these discussions after the event was over because mental health is something that all of us are working on for ourselves,” said Gupta. The Committee also hosted a second panel aimed towards parents, as well as those who didn’t have the opportunity to attend the first one, from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 5 in C-120. “We hope to continue doing events like this next year, and we hope to make the Mental Health Panel an annual event [so that] students will be able to hear the stories of people who struggled with mental health,” said Njoo.
Photo by Staff Writer Stephanie Dutra