Last week the Student Government Association (SGA) organized their first ever Wellness Week, hosting events aimed at improving students’ mental health and well-being.
Some of the events included bullet journaling, meditation, Zumba and planting succulents.
Students walking to class could receive free coffee, lemonade, snacks and flowers from SGA representatives.
Junior Class Senator Mohamed El Gendi addressed the decision to host Wellness Week.
“We want to make people happy. We want to improve wellness on campus in general,” he said. “Seeing that smile on people’s faces at all these events is what makes it possible.”
El Gendi added that the way the event is set up encourages students to stop by.
“We’ve been having really good outreach, especially when we’re outside. People love free stuff,” he said.
A 2016 survey by the Task Force on Student Mental Health and Well-being found that about 60 percent of Hopkins undergraduates “often” or “very often” felt overwhelmed during the academic year, and about 68 percent found balancing their workloads “moderately” or “very stressful.”
Junior Class Senator Claire Gorman, who spearheaded the initiative, explained that the events were designed to help relieve some of these academic pressures.
She added that she has experienced some times when her mental health has interfered with her schoolwork.
“I find that when I’m doing my schoolwork, if I’m too overwhelmed or if I haven’t been taking care of my mental health, then it’s almost impossible to focus or actually execute my work well,” she said.
Gorman said that she and the rest of the Junior Class Senate created Wellness Week in part to make up for gaps in the University’s mental health resources.
She feels that these resources should be more accessible to the student body.
“It is almost impossible to take days off here with exams and all of that, which is why it’s important to have programming that puts it out there,” she said. “If there’s free coffee, then you can have something good in your day, and you didn’t have to go out of your way to create that experience for yourself.”
Many students who attended appreciated and enjoyed the events.
Freshman Amal Hayat, who received some of the SGA’s free coffee and snacks, said that she was grateful for the events, though she doesn’t believe they impacted her mental health.
“Personally, I don’t go to any of [SGA’s] meetings, I don’t go to any of their board stuff, so I never really understand what’s going on, but when I see things like this, I see them actually trying,” she said. “It didn’t help my mental health, but it made my day a little bit brighter.”
El Gendi said that readily available opportunities for students to take a break from studying were crucial for a healthy campus environment.
“We’re awesome, super intelligent students, but how can we be expected to thrive in such a harsh academic environment if we’re not mentally healthy?” he said.
El Gendi further stressed the importance of taking care of one’s mental health and well-being.
“Hopkins offers us so many opportunities to succeed, but at the same time, these opportunities to succeed must be accompanied with opportunities to stay healthy and stay happy,” he said.
SGA has been putting more emphasis on mental health in recent semesters.
In September, SGA founded the Mental Health Student Group Coalition with the intention of encouraging mental health advocacy on campus.
In February, they hosted their first annual Mental Health Summit.
El Gendi stated that SGA intends to continue with their current mental health initiatives and plans to push for new ones.
“Next year, there’s going to be a lot more. SGA’s culture in general is shifting towards the better, and we’re being more connected to the students,” he said. “There is much more to be done, but we are on the right track and we have the right people.”
El Gendi added that though mental health is not an official responsibility of SGA, members feel obligated to provide students with outlets because they feel that the University’s resources are lacking.
“SGA is a representative of the student body, whatever its needs may be,” El Gendhi said. “If the student body wants to have better mental wellness in general, then it is our responsibility to make it happen.”
El Gendi further explained that Wellness Week is a way of addressing mental health issues on campus while the University continues to improve their facilities and provide more resources for students struggling with mental illness.
“Until Johns Hopkins provide us with better [mental health] facilities, here we are. We’re doing our job of trying to make people happy,” he said.