If You’re Reading This, College Students’ Mental Health Matters
Editor’s Note: This story was originally written in May of 2022.
Former senior Meredith Lloyd decided to start an If You’re Reading This chapter at SMU after noticing friends struggle with mental health in college post-COVID and observing the If You’re Reading This organization help some of her friends at Boston College.
The organization officially launched at SMU on March 2, 2022 and is one of 16 college campuses to be a part of the If You’re Reading This organization. Lloyd said she hopes that “the chapter will encourage others to be supported and break the mental health stigma.”
The overall goal of the If You’re Reading This organization is to “serve as an open-ended university-wide support network to help students struggling with anxiety and depression,” according to its website.
When the SMU chapter debuted, then-junior Sydney Castle published the first letter.
Castle plans to take charge of the organization once Lloyd graduates.
Castle has been on the SMU student senate all three years of her SMU career and is very involved on campus. Due to Castle’s experience, Lloyd sought Castle for her leadership skills to help establish the chapter. Further, Castle’s recognizability among the student body made her the perfect candidate to write the first If You’re Reading This letter.
The organization strives to support those who are struggling by providing allies who share their experiences publicly in hopes to have others reach out and feel less alone in their struggles.
“I had a lot of time for self-reflection and realized I’ve received so much love and affection, I want others to feel the same,” Castle said when explaining why she got involved in If You’re Reading This.
Castle shared her mental health struggles in her debut letter and was told by a peer at SMU that her letter gave him the courage to publish one of his own. He told Castle that the platform gave him an opportunity to share a part of himself he never expected he would be able to.
Since Castle’s initial letter in March, 11 total letters have been posted on the SMU campus portion of the website. A wide array of mental health related experiences are shared on the page from issues like abuse, suicides, sexual orientation, and more. Students have the opportunity to send in letters directly through the website and can even submit them anonymously if they wish.
According to the Healthy Minds Network in accordance with the American College Health Association, 42% of 18,000 college students that were surveyed sought mental health help in the spring of 2020. Further, 60% of those surveyed said it was somewhat or much more difficult to seek care. It is important that students have access to various mental health resources so they can get the help they need.
SMU provides mental health help to students in the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center as well as apps to help track mental wellness. One option available is the teletherapy app by AcademicLiveCare which offers on-demand counsel designed specifically for students. Another available resource is TogetherAll, an online confidential peer community. The website says that their “peer-to-peer platform is a safe place to connect with others experiencing similar feelings, plus there are trained professionals on hand, 24/7.” They also ensure that all members are anonymous to each other within the forum.
The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center was unable to provide information on the mental health trends they witnessed among the SMU student population since the pandemic. However, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that 1-in-3 young adults aged 18 to 25 years old experienced mental illness during 2020. Several challenges from the pandemic attributed to young adults’ mental health decline in 2020 according to NAMI such as isolation from peers, changes to routine, adapting to virtual learning, and changes in sleep habits.
Further, an article published in 2020 by HealthCentral included that 25% of respondents from a study taken by 5,400 people between ages 18 and 24 had contemplated suicide during the month of August. This could be attributed to the stress and anxiety due to uncertainty surrounding the start of a college semester following being sent home during a global pandemic.
Several students on college campuses continue to struggle with their mental health, so accessibility to resources remains important.
The “IfYou’reReadingThis.org/smu-resources” is a Southern Methodist University Resources page that includes links to Caring Community Connections Program (which offers support to students by connecting them to proper resources when they are struggling, and also has a section that students can fill out a form if they know someone who they believe is struggling), SMU Student Counseling Services, Student Senate Health Committee, Office of The Dean of Students, the Bob Smith Health Center and more.
“What I am doing is helping people” Castle said when explaining her passion for the If You’re Reading This organization. “I want to be able to be a positive part of someone’s mental health journey.”