Stony Brook University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) held its second annual Mental Health Gala on Wednesday, March 29.
The gala’s masquerade theme was chosen to represent how people often struggle with mental health but choose to not seek out help for a variety of reasons. The main goal of the gala was to raise funds to support Stony Brook’s mental health services. To complement the night’s fundraising goals, the ball also featured a raffle and several paintings for sale.
Devin Lobosco, the executive vice president of USG and a junior majoring in biochemistry and women’s studies, said that mental health services at Stony Brook University are often overwhelmed and understaffed, leading to students not receiving adequate care.
“We noticed that [Counseling and Psychological Services] was often swamped, their appointment booking page was sometimes full,” Lobosco said. “And so we wanted to see how we can support students with these unique mental health needs who perhaps feel like they have had a negative experience with a counselor and are intimidated to get some counseling.”
The event was also attended by several high-ranking university officials, including Provost Carl Lejuez and President Maurie McInnis.
“As the provost, I always want to support our students,” Lejuez said. “So, anytime they’re putting on an event of this magnitude, I definitely [show up]. But this is particularly important for me. I’m a clinical psychologist, and the effort to take away the stigma of mental health to try to make mental health more accessible was so important when I was in college a very long time ago.
Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau echoed the importance of students feeling like they can receive proper mental health care.
“People feel stigmatized that they can’t talk about mental health, whether it’s either a cultural stigma, family stigma [or a] societal stigma,” Gatteau said. “This is an opportunity for us to say, we want to break the stigma and come together in the community and show that we care about this as an important issue. And that if you’re hurting or having challenges, there are resources available to you.”
Throughout the event, several performances and speeches took place. Stony Brook’s Music and Medicine club provided live music throughout the event, and several students chose to stand up and recite poetry or give speeches about their own experiences with mental health and what the event meant to them.
However, the most prolific speaker of the night was Tiffany Channer, who was chosen to be the event’s keynote speaker. As the last person giving a speech, she took the audience on a journey of her life, describing the ups and downs and how she dealt with her own mental health at different points of her life and throughout different situations.
Chaner graduated from Stony Brook in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences. She spoke about her time at Stony Brook fondly and described how Stony Brook helped her grow into the person she is today.
“My years at Stony Brook were some of the most memorable times of my life,” Channer said. “I met some of my best friends and shared magical moments. I was in my happy place amongst my peers. However, I would not be honest if I did not say Stony Brook was not challenging.”
Channer also spoke about the mental health struggles of college students.
“Unfortunately, as many as 75% of students who struggle with depression and anxiety are reluctant to seek help. The statistics and commentary from counselors throughout the nation warrants a call for action,” she said.
To many attendees, the gala represented the commitment Stony Brook had toward its mental health services. However, not everyone felt the school was putting mental health first. Jake Cavalli, a sophomore majoring in history and anthropology, said that he was not impressed with mental health services on campus.
“It’s hard to access these things,” Cavalli said. “There’s a whole process you have to go through to go into it. The money that’s being sent into these things isn’t always the most available, especially to LGBTQ people.”