• Meghan Sorensen

“We Hear You”: UMass Student-Run Organizations Support Mental Wellness of Community Members

It’s no secret that this fall many students are experiencing elevated levels of anxiety and stress as they navigate the uncharted territory of academic and social life during a pandemic. While it is easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed during this challenging time, it is important to note that as a community, there are resources available and that no one is alone.

This week, I sat down with Taylor Martin-Graham, Andrea Ramirez Franco, and Megan Finch, team leaders for UMass Amherst’s Team Positive Presence (TPP) to discuss resources available for students and members of the UMass community.

TPP is a student-led initiative established in 2015 that promotes a positive environment for students and encourages positive interactions between peers and community members. The team is currently composed of 17 students with five team leaders and nine team members.

The goal of the organization is “to create a positive morale on campus and to create a welcoming environment for those on and off-campus as well as closing the gap between Amherst residents and UMass students,” said Martin-Graham, a senior BDIC International Business and Environmental Law student.

TPP promotes random acts of kindness and messages in the community such as Wellness Wednesdays and events to encourage healthy, positive lifestyles.

“What makes Team Positive Presence really special is that because we’re students, we understand,” said Martin-Graham.

The team has been pushing to increase the accessibility of tools to benefit the wellbeing of students this semester by providing advice regarding stress reduction, academic success, wellbeing, and mental health support on social media and through regular meetings.

In addition to TPP, Project Connect was created to further unite the community with meaningful conversations to help peers connect.

“We talk about more deep topics so when people are expressing themselves and answering these questions, it’s kind of a way to get rid of that sense of loneliness,” said sophomore Ramirez Franco. The hour-long conversations are centered around a sequence of questions designed to build empathy, connections, and friendship.

Beyond TPP, UMass Amherst’s Campus Life and Wellbeing Collaborative offers support and resources for students struggling with their academic, emotional, financial, physical wellbeing along with aspects of student life.

The Center for Counseling and Psychological Health is providing weekly group meetings and workshops online to benefit students struggling with any number of problems. These services range from support for trans and gender non-conforming members of the community to meditation and how to make connections in quarantine.

“I think right now, students need to know that we’re here and that there are organizations that are working to actively listen,” said Martin-Graham.

For more resources, please visit https://www.umass.edu/studentlife/wellbeing-safety.

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