The hallways and bulletin boards of Boston College are plastered with an impressive yet undeniably overwhelming array of colorful posters, all promoting on-campus events, clubs and academic speakers. Unfortunately, many of these posters and the initiatives they advertise go unnoticed, washed out in a sea of propaganda.
But, from the noise of this crowd of student organizations comes what may be the most important new initiative at BC: UGBC’s Be Conscious campaign. It is the only movement of its type at BC and it aims to bring something absolutely indispensible to the student body: mental healthcare.
UGBC created Be Conscious in 2014 with the goal of connecting students to the counseling and health resources already available to them on campus and, perhaps more importantly, to initiate a dialogue about mental health and illness on campus.
The widely criticized culture of perfection at BC, in which students hold themselves to unattainable standards of achievement, happiness and social acceptance, has the affect of stigmatizing mental illness. “We set entirely unhealthy and unrealistic standards for ourselves,” says one of the Be Conscious leaders, Emma Catranis, A&S ’18. “We so often adopt masks to hide the fact that we are struggling to meet these standards.”
Be Conscious, an organization of around 20 students led by president Cassidy Gallegos, LSOE ’16, aims to reverse the misperception of mental illness as a shameful thing. Through its events, the campaign helps students to see that “no, there’s nothing wrong with you, and no, you’re not alone,” as Be Conscious leader Megan Flynn, A&S ’17, put it.
Already this year, Be Conscious has launched several initiatives including BC Chats, a counseling program in which peer mentors lead discussions on pertinent mental health issues.
The group’s most noteworthy upcoming workshop, Take Care, will take place April 7-9 and will focus on self-care as an essential part of successfully maintaining good mental health.
The workshop will feature events such as yoga, journaling, guided meditation and painting--activities that are typically the first to be cut from student schedules inundated with academic, extracurricular and social obligations--and will give students a space away from the taxing routine of school to decompress and reflect.
At a minimum, the 3-day event will give students a much needed opportunity to relax, but more significantly Catranis hopes that “students will be inspired to incorporate those techniques into their daily lives in some capacity.”
Women’s emotional wellbeing specifically has become a large concern on campus in light of the alarming statistic showing that BC women’s confidence declines during their time here, but Be Conscious, Take Care and the self-care they promote are for everyone.
“There exists a very common misconception that most things that fall under the umbrella of self-care are not inherently ‘masculine,’” says Catranis. Be Conscious workshops, she emphasizes, are not gender specific, but are inclusive to the entirety of the BC community, as mental health is as universally human an issue as any.
In the current campus climate, it is difficult to engage earnestly in conversations about mental health, but the team at Be Conscious believes it is absolutely imperative that we do so. “I have seen progress in the way we address mental health here,” concludes Catranis, “but there is still so much work to be done.”