UW-Madison is welcoming a new club that is launching the week of April 22nd. IfYou’reReadingThis.org is a national organization whose purpose is to create a support network for mental health for students by students. It currently has twelve chapters at universities throughout the country, and its thirteenth is in the process of being established on our very own campus.
The stigma surrounding mental health is a very serious issue and is a barrier that the organization is trying to break. It works via open letters that students and faculty submit, talking about their own experiences with mental health. Each letter is accompanied with a name and a photo so that readers know that mental health is not something that any one of us should be ashamed about. The idea behind the letters is that others will read them and be reminded that they are not alone in their struggles with anxiety, depression, etc. The goal is that the readers will then be prompted to submit their own letters and so on and so forth, thus eventually creating a network that individuals feel safe and supported in.
The organization recognizes that being vulnerable about these topics can be scary but hopes that cultivating a group of peers that individuals can talk to will furthermore foster an environment of support and positivity. It hopes to build a bridge between students struggling with mental health and people that care about them.
IfYou’reReadingThis.org was founded at the University of Virginia in the fall of 2016. The founder, Alexandra Pentel, noticed that there existed a handful of social campaigns surrounding mental illness, but none were all that successful in ending the mental health stigma due to the degree of separation that a screen creates. She became passionate about creating an in-person community of like-minded peers that wanted to create and give friendship and connection to anyone interested in joining. The organization strongly emphasizes the importance of reminding individuals that they are loved. Since its founding, IfYou’reReadingThis has gained national traction and recognition.
Many college campuses lack adequate mental health resources, especially those that feature student and faculty experiences directly. The UW-Madison chapter of IfYou’reReadingThis will focus on building a community of people from all backgrounds through providing a space for a more open conversation surrounding mental health. Letters will be featured on the campus-specific Instagram account, and, if the author is willing, others will be able to contact them about their story to provide support, ask questions, etc.
Additionally, once they become established, the UW-Madison chapter is hoping to launch simultaneous initiatives, such as recruiting a group of students to volunteer on phone help/crisis lines, conduct interviews that can be viewed on social media platforms and administering random acts of kindness.
For more information, visit IfYou’reReadingThis.org. For more information about the UW-Madison chapter, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Similar organizations already established on campus include the Badger Support Network (BSN) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).