Contributed by Behind the SMILE (Suicide and Mental Illness Education)
Stigma around mental health and mental illness exists on a global scale, and college campuses are no exception. It takes a lot of courage to reach out and take the first steps toward seeking treatment and, for many college students, this is an incredibly important factor in maintaining safety and wellness. It is imperative that college students have access to mental health services that are competent, comprehensive, affordable, and timely. According to student reports, University Health and Counseling Services at Northeastern (UHCS) has often been unable to provide such necessary care for their students, and is not committed to putting the needs of students first. Students have reported that the counseling center does not have an adequate number of trained behavioral health clinicians (there are only nine for 18,000 undergraduate students), the existing counselors do not reflect the diversity of the student body, the center gives students long waiting periods between scheduling appointments, and often provides students with outdated referrals. The therapy system itself at UHCS is short-term care, meaning that students have a limited amount of appointments before they are given a referral to an outside organization or private practice that matches their insurance. This is not an atypical practice for university health centers, but the lack of accountability and available appointments makes UHCS particularly difficult to maneuver, especially for those who are already dealing with mental health-related stress. Students often leave their UHCS appointments feeling frustrated or dissatisfied with the services they have received. Many do not go on to find alternative treatment.
Behind the SMILE (Suicide and Mental Illness Education) is a student-led organization that works to close this gap between the services offered at UHCS and finding outside help in the Greater Boston community. Behind the SMILE is committed to deconstructing stigma surrounding mental health and providing a supportive educational environment that helps students to learn about mental illness and suicide prevention, particularly as it affects college students. We hold weekly meetings during which we engage in open group discussions about mental health related topics. The goal of these conversations is to provide a safe and comfortable space for students to give and receive support on these often difficult and personal topics. We have also run photo campaigns to raise awareness about mental health, and hosted Self-Care Sundays where students can gather to de-stress. We work with other like-minded student organizations to bring mental health conversations to light on our campus, and we support organizations whose missions are to encourage the safety and well-being of students who are struggling. We work closely with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and we bring an annual Out of the Darkness campus walk to Northeastern. This walk raises awareness of suicide prevention and raises money for AFSP, an organization whose mission is to understand and prevent suicide through research, education, and advocacy. Behind the SMILE is committed to supporting students who are struggling and advocated for better mental health resources on our campus and beyond.
We recognize that we are not licensed mental health workers, and we encourage students to seek professional help in the Boston community. Here are some resources that may be helpful to students:
Samaritans crisis hotline: 877-870-HOPE (4673). Call or text 24/7.
Lean On Me Huntington: Peer support text line for students in the Huntington Ave area. Supporters are local university students trained in empathetic listening. Text 617-202-2948 to be anonymously connected with a peer supporter, or visit http://lean0n.me/huntington/ for more information.
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC): 99 Bishop Allen Dr, Cambridge, MA; 24-hour hotline: (800) 841-8371. Provides various services to survivors of rape and sexual assault and their loved ones.
Fenway Health: LGBTQIA+ health care facility with 3 different locations in Boston. Provides physical healthcare, mental healthcare, support groups for LGBTQIA+ identified folks, optometry, dentistry, and more. Closest location to our campus: 1340 Boylston St, Boston, MA. Their website is amazing and very informative: http://fenwayhealth.org/
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): National organization with chapters in major cities – offers services such as: support groups, education programs, 24-hour hotline that assists callers who are navigating the mental health care system (800-370-9085).
Brookline Community Mental Health Center: 41 Garrison Rd, Brookline, MA 617-277-8107. Offers a variety of free support groups and therapy programs for people of all ages, cultural backgrounds, gender identities, etc.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): Offers both online and in-person free support groups run by peers. The closest group meets Thursdays 7 to 9pm at the Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital, 4th Floor, Suite 4A, Schiff Conference Center Room 4, Boston, MA, less than 100 yards from the Charles/MGH Red line stop. For more info, call 617-855-2795 or visit http://www.dbsaboston.org/
Cambridge Eating Disorder Center (CEDC): 3 Bow St, Cambridge, MA 617-547-2255. Offers a variety of resources for people living with eating disorders, including individual and group therapy, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, nutritional counseling, medication management, family therapy, and support groups. http://www.eatingdisordercenter.org/
Jane Doe Inc: 14 Beacon St #507, Boston, MA (617) 248-0922. Policy organization that works to end domestic violence/provide support and resources for survivors.
The Network la Red: Confidential location; hotline (voice): 617-742-4911, hotline (TTY): 617-227-4911; Survivor-led organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities. http://tnlr.org/en/
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE 24/7 hotline for survivors of domestic violence.
Psychology Today Therapist Search Engine Can be a helpful start to finding a therapist who is a good fit. https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/
Zencare: Online database of therapists who have availability in the Boston area; specifically targeted toward college students and young professionals. https://www.zencare.co/