Over my last four years at Bowdoin, I have come to understand two consistently contradictory narratives that exist on our campus surrounding the issues of mental health and wellness. I’m sure everyone on this campus has heard statements such as, “our institution is not doing enough for our mental health or doesn’t care,” or its counterpart, “the institution has plenty of mental health resources and programming,” and we all hold our own ideas and opinions about how we feel about these statements.
What worries me is not that there is a diversity of opinion that exists on our campus, but how these narratives have spiraled out of control and only exacerbate division between students and the administration. The bridge of communication that we all desperately need to find ways to work together and make meaningful progress on the issue of mental health feels considerably damaged, if not entirely burnt. However, I believe that there is a path, and some initial steps, that we can take as a student body and broader institution to work toward coming together.
Over the last four months, I have worked in my capacity as a part of Bowdoin Student Government to establish a joint student-admin “Mental Health Board.” This board intends to provide our student body with a shared space to speak directly with administrators and leadership in our counseling services department so they can hear our voices, opinions and ideas. Support for this programming and space has been secured from the administration and the board will hold one meeting per month over the next four months beginning next week on Tuesday, February 15 from 7:00–8:00 p.m. in Lancaster Lounge in Moulton Union.
Mental health and wellness is something that impacts every single one of us on this campus, and we must take advantage of this opportunity to do what we can to work collaboratively and respectfully in these talks. As someone with the privilege of regular access to administrators, I can say that they are prepared to come to these talks with open ears and serious intentions to consider what we have to say.
I completely understand and recognize the skepticism and criticism that may arise and be directed toward me for taking such a stance in light of the narratives that exist on our campus that I have already described and the historical distrust that has accumulated over the years. Still, I believe our best chance as an institution to try and foster the real change and progress that we want to see is for all of us to come to these kinds of discussions with open minds, and to recognize the good intentions of all of those involved. I hope that you consider offering your voices, experiences and perspectives in some capacity in these discussions. What I have found most important, as a student and individual in my time at Bowdoin, is that our voices, experiences and messages hold weight and value that we don’t always recognize.
Please consider attending these Mental Health Board meetings next week and over the next few months, and use your voice to be a part of the conversation that is so crucial for the progress in these issues that we want to have as a student body.
Ryan Britt is a member of the Class of 2022.