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A student run-health group dubbed the “Feel Good Society” has begun hosting weekly meetings in an effort to improve mental health for students at the College.
Co-founder Alec S. Bowman ’17 began planning the group last semester when he reached out to other co-founders Emily A. Johansen ’17 and Melanie M. Slone ’17 about fostering more open discussions about mental health on campus.
The meetings, which started this semester, typically begin with an icebreaker before moving to self-help topics ranging from meditation to dorm room cleanliness.
Bowman said he hopes meetings’ casual environment will encourage students to be more open about their mental health. He added that he struggled with his own mental health while at Harvard, and noted that the College’s existing resources were more “private and individual.”
“It still felt like even when I went to use these resources to help myself, I was still somehow isolating myself,” Bowman said.
Rather than focusing on specific individual experiences, the group aims to provide a set of tips for participants in addressing their own mental health concerns.
“We’re not trying to be a talk therapy group or a psychoanalysis group,” Bowman said, “I think other resources like Room 13 take care of that very well. The primary purpose of the group actually is to focus on the positive things and practical tips.”
While the Feel Good Society has previously met with representatives from Harvard University Health Services for advice on running the group, Bowman said the organization currently has no plans to affiliate with HUHS.
“In our discussion, we wanted to keep it a non-therapy, non-clinical group. It was more students supporting each other who have had emotional issues of different kinds,” HUHS Director Paul J. Barreira said.
Barreira said that he thought the Feel Good Society was a “great idea,” and added that although the group is not sponsored by HUHS, it will be “supported by us as needed.”
In future meetings, Bowman said he plans to incorporate a system in which students pair off at the end of the meeting and agree to check in with each other later in the week, creating “an organic safety net for people” who may be struggling. He said that in his own experience, it is easy to self-isolate oneself while working through mental health issues, which may not be noticeable to others.
“If someone pairs up at the end of the meeting and doesn’t respond on Thursday at all, it’s kind of like a notice for us as a sympathetic group of people that something might be up,” Bowman said.
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