Community, Features, Impact

On-campus mental health services, student organizations collaborate to spread awareness about mental health

Isolation, fear and loneliness — from remote classes through the pandemic to a post-vaccination return to in-person schedules — mental health struggles have been difficult for many students.

Terriers Thrive Together logo
The Terriers Thrive Together logo. The collaborative project was created to spread awareness of on-campus mental health resources for Boston University students throughout the month of October. ILLUSTRATION BY SHANNON DAMIANO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

To help students struggling with mental health, the Terriers Thrive Together project is hosting events to promote on-campus resources throughout October. The fair addressed many intersections of mental health, including for students of color, individuals with disabilities and sexual assault survivors.

The project was virtual last year, and coming out of the pandemic, the organizers prioritized getting support and resources to students in both in-person and online events. The events this year range from support groups, writing workshops, community conversations to social outings, and involve events both open to the general BU community and specialized to specific marginalized groups.

Savannah Majarwitz, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the Student Government Mental Health Committee, said the project is a collaboration between different groups on campus such as the Student Government Mental Health Committee, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Behavioral Medicine, Wellness and Prevention and Wellbeing Project.

“It’s really just to open up a broader awareness about mental health, and then also see where the gaps are,” Majarwitz said. “We want to hear feedback from students, we want to know how we can improve … we want to know how we can communicate that directly to administrators, and how they can expand resources.”

Terriers Thrive Together held a Mental Health Fair at Marsh Chapel Plaza on Oct. 13, showcasing a range of booths and information from Behavioral Medicine, student organizations such as Campus Survivors and, perhaps the crowd’s favorite, a mental health support dog.

Melissa Paz, assistant director of Mental Health Promotion with Student Health Services, said the goal of the fair was to show students what mental health resources are available on campus.

“The visibility of mental health as an important issue really is becoming more and more visible,” Paz said.“Students are becoming aware of the issues and aware of the importance of destigmatization, and events like this one [help] to do that.”

Paz said students struggling with their mental health should know they can reach out to many services on campus for help.

“Tapping into your emotions and acknowledging whatever it is that you’re feeling, regardless of how you would label it, is so important, and to know that [you’re] not alone,” Paz said. “If [students] don’t know where to look, just asking someone and starting somewhere is often just a very good first step.”

Brooke Angell, a senior in CAS and president of Active Minds, said the BU club focuses on destigmatizing mental health issues.

“You’re always going to have people who are dealing with depression, anxiety, stuff like that,” Angell said, “[and] with the stress of the pandemic and coming back to school while the pandemic is still going on, that’s very stressful.”

The fair also showcased several booths from outside organizations based in the greater Boston area, including DeeDee’s Cry, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention for communities of color and advocating for the importance of mental health education and resources.

Toy Burton, founder and executive director of DeeDee’s Cry, said the pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health issues for communities of color, including “disparities when it comes to just health care period.”

“The biggest part is about having these conversations, and having people share their stories to break down the stigma that surrounds mental health and communities of color,” Burton said.

Christopher Robinson, coordinator of outreach and training at BU’s Disability and Access Services, represented the department with a booth at the fair.

“Mental health is broad, ambiguous. It is a gauntlet that we have to migrate through,” Robinson said. “Disability Access Services approaches mitigating the stress of mental health [for individuals with disabilities].”

Majarwitz said she has “mixed thoughts” on the University’s support for mental health services, but said BU Student Activities Office funding the fair is an appreciated and good step.

“I think that says that they’re willing to support events on mental health,” she said. “I would really like that effort and passion to also be translated into supporting more services for students.”


  1. Maybe the intentions were good but half the tables were BU depts that look good on paper but do little else especially when BU claims it partners with the JED foundation. Just a week ago there was an alleged suicide attempt that could have endangered other students and only silence.
    Whereas UNC which had two tragic suicides was transparent, offered continuous outreach and followers the templates for JED foundation to a tee. Their Hillel foundation has been extraordinary with outreach and a memorial was held for the students who died inviting all of UNC. Fighting the stigma means fighting it on all fronts and having available resources when students reach out. BU doesn’t even have enough mental health counselors to meet the need and students have expressed they think they are only supposed to use behavioral health services if it “ is an emergency “. The point is you need prevention and postvention. You need colleges to prioritize the WELLBEING of every student which is linked to academic success.
    That has yet to happen at BU. Faculty have even complained to us that they are being kept until the dark when incidents happen. Students are left with anxiety and rumors wondering why the shame and silence. One can maintain confidentiality and still reach out to terriers consistently and especially when incidents happen.

    1st- Don’t call it a “ Mental Health “ fair
    You want to get rid of the stigma and call it something fun and alluring so students come and include music and arts and fun so they show up.

    2nd – Have therapy dogs weekly on campus all day or at least half a day unlike the sad results last week when advertised for all day, and only one dog showed up at 5pm. This poor dog was so overwhelmed with the amount of students who showed up that it had to leave.

    3rd- BU should strongly consider having their own therapy comfort dogs on campus as many colleges have decided to do now. In fact, even our troops are taking therapy dogs on deployment as the research has shown the incredible positive impact on focus, stress relief, anxiety relief, reduction in isolation and Depression and yes, even suicides.

    4th – Have an anonymous hotline where students can actually call in problems and anyone they are worried about who is hurting emotionally. Prevent suicides and suicide attempts.

    5th – Have BU hire more counselors – they are referring out when community resources are overwhelmed too. Use the endowment monies of 3 billion plus.

    6th – Please stop offering workshops and resources over ZOOM as advertised by SHS when everyone is vaccinated now. The point is to alleviate isolation and encourage community support . That is just not acceptable at a university with BU’s caliber and reputation when classes are in-person now.

    7th- Offer campus wide events with speakers on mental fitness and mindfulness where thousands can attend – mix humor with support – music with support – food with support so terriers are inspired to show up. Get some of our famous alumni to come back and talk about getting help and reaching out .

    8th – as JED foundation advocates, train every RA, staff member and faculty in Mental Health 1st Aid as UNC has done and so many other institutions . Then offer it to students as an option AFTER the main staff is trained.

    9th – we see all those signs and campus wide campaigns for COVID safety that cost hundreds of thousands. Why can’t we do the same for wellbeing and mental fitness with positive affirmations and resource numbers all over campus outside and inside?

    10th and NOT least – the daily health check students are required to do MUST begin to include mental health checks and questions :
    “ How is your sleep? Are you feeling worried about anything ? Are you eating okay? Are you worried about your safety ? Are you worried about anyone else? Are you feeling down? Are you remembering to take some time for you each day to relax and destress? Do you feel supported?
    Would you like to speak with a counselor? “

    And include the numbers every day they can call including the national number 1-800-273-8255, reminding them that their mental fitness is just as important and linked to their physical health and studies.

    In summary, MAKE TERRIER WELLBEING YOUR PRIORITY PLEASE. We are still in a pandemic and our parent group has sent these suggestions and pleaded for change . Students have told us their hands were tied and they did not wish to upset admin when admin held the purse strings for their clubs and organizations. RAs are afraid to speak up for their own need for support and others for fear of losing their positions. It’s time for a major overhaul. Open those communication lines and listen to your students, your student government, your RAs, your professors, your staff. Our terriers are the brightest and so inspiring, make them part of this solution as JED foundation recommends. This is their future.

    BU knows what it needs to do. The question is are terriers and their wellbeing worth BU’s investment? We hope the answer will be yes this year and from now on, but we are still waiting.

    Sidenote: I am a crisis intervention counselor and behavior specialist. I also run BU Parents United begun when the pandemic began so we could speak freely about issues that mattered and support our terriers and BU.
    I have helped many families and students in the last year, listened to their tears and frustrations, with the lack of mental health supports at BU so the above are suggestions based on all of this and to avoid another tragedy. Prevention and postvention must be continuous not a one day deal or even one month focus.

    BU states it is a partner of JED foundation. It may be on paper but not in actions because JED encourages all of this and has templates on how to prioritize and lead a strong supportive campus so students feel daily that their mental health is valued and they matter.

    We know how this pandemic has affected world mental health. The research is there even from BU’s own extraordinary School of Public Health.
    BU can shine here as it already does in so many areas and be an example to other institutions worldwide.

    And if you are reading this and hurting – you are not alone. This pandemic has not been easy and life is tough but we can get through this together because you matter. If you need help, call 1-800-273-8255 . If you are LGBTQ and need help, the Trevor Project is amazing too at 1-866-488-7386. Give yourself a break. You are not supposed to have it all figured out yet when many of us older adults haven’t yet either.:)
    Reaching out takes courage and you are worth it.

    #BUProud #Proud2BU #Wellbeing #MentalHealthMatters #YOUMatter #ReachOut #BostonUniversity #MentalFitness #BostonUniversity #Terriers #Boston

  2. Everything she said. Well-said.

    As a first-time BU parent and of a college kid, many worries go through our heads and our kids have spent a couple of years in the weirdest of times. We should be there for them always, not just up to the age of 18. I hope the administration hears students, their parents, and even staff… that it’s all hands on deck and we need to take care of this ASAP.