Students wielding posters and signs gathered at the University of Connecticut Great Seal Wednesday demanding better mental health care from the university and Counseling and Mental Health Services.
Omar Taweh, an eighth-semester senior physiology and neurobiology major, took to social media to express frustrations with CMHS conduct, which led to the demonstration.
“One of my friends was complaining to me about an issue she had with mental health,” Taweh said. “It sparked my interest and passion for mental health which lead to this demonstration.”
Students held signs and flyers printed with personal statements about mental health and CMHS.
“The people at CMHS program and plan all these initiatives to improve their services and they do a good job with that,” Taweh said. “But what is so sad is that the concerns of students are rarely heard, because there are no channels for that.”
Students at the demonstration attributed many of the problems with CMHS to insufficient funds.
“As a state university we are getting funding from public sources where we need to demand that things get done, especially at a public university like UConn,” Taweh said. “Nobody is going to take charge and start the conversation about our resources and how they can be better.”
Demonstrators said they want the voices in the student body to be heard, and for reform at CMHS.
“A demonstration really emphasizes the fact that there is a need and a concern students have for CMHS to hear them out on their concerns,” Taweh said. “It’s not just planning programs or collaborating with more student organizations; it is about hearing what we are telling you.”
Annastasia Martineau, vice president of the National Alliance of Mental Illness on campus, spoke to demonstrators about her own experiences on mental health.
“Mental health care is and should be a human right, no exceptions,” Martineau said. “As UConn students, we deserve free and regular trauma informed, intersectional and accessible care on campus when it comes to mental health.”
Martineau clarified that she and other demonstrators are not discouraging students from going to CMHS for help when needed.
“We are here to bring awareness to the fact that CMHS needs to be given more adequate resources to continue to improve and expand in the ways it has the potential to,” Marinteau said.
Martineau proposed the ways in which students at the demonstration felt CMHS can change.
“We envision reform including more funding being allocated to CMHS to hire more therapists, mandatory training for student leaders and an online form to make requesting services more accessible to students,” Martineau said.
More than 80 students anonymously shared their stories and concerns online with Taweh in a Google Form he made public to students, Taweh said.
“I feel the demonstration very much reflects the student body at large and not the concerns of myself and one other individual,” Taweh said.
Lindsey Brown, eighth-semester pathobiology major, took part in the demonstration.
“I am here because I think CMHS is doing a good job with the resources they have, but there’s not enough attention on what can be done,” Brown said. “They’re working with a broken system at this point and they don’t really have the funding or resources that they need to give the access and help students at UConn.”
Brown said CMHS deserves more funding and aid in order to help its program grow.
“We are not criticizing, we are really just trying to promote that CMHS needs help in order to support and serve the students here,” Brown said.
Both Martineau and Brown emphasized that the focus is on improving CMHS and their quality of mental health care.
“The core of this demonstration is to bring awareness to the student body, that CMHS is here for you and that student leaders are and will continue to actively work and improve services,” Martineau said.
Martineau closed her speech reminding observers that there is always room for improvement.
“I would personally like to thank you all for being here and being brave,” Martineau said. “We see your faces, we hear your stories and we stand here with you today to ensure everyone can access even better mental health care than we already have.”
Naiela Suleiman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.