BMCSpeaks 2017

On March 31st, 2017

A representative group of Bryn Mawr College students convened for two hours to discuss mental health on campus. In the first hour of the forum, students read anonymous personal testimonies written by other Bryn Mawr students. They then had an opportunity to have a conversation with an expert panel about their reactions to the testimonies and their own perceptions of mental health on campus. In the second hour of the forum, the students were split into four groups in which they deliberated over central themes and concerns that they recognized from the first hour. They also deliberated over concrete recommendations for improvement upon those central themes and concerns.

Personal Testimonies submitted
Students Randomly Selected


20% more community members recognize mental illness as a serious problem on campus.
9% more students talked about the role of mental health on campus to their peers.
8% more faculty became more active and engaged about mental health on campus.
13% more professors acknowledged mental illness as a legitimate reason for poor academic performance.

BMCSpeaks Solutions Report

  • Theme
    The administration and students are not on the same page about mental health.

    • “Both the administration, and us as students, need to find a middle ground in all aspects (be it traditions, medical leave, course loads, etc.)”
    • “The Deans’ Office should change how they talk about leaving and graduating early.”
    • “[The] need for change is acknowledged but not much change is happening from the administration.”
    • “There is a lot to be improved – and students have ideas on how to improve them but nothing ever happens with them.”

  • Recommendations

    – Have voluntary forums for discussion.
    – The Deans’ Office should come out with a report of the actions they have done with evolving the Health Center so we the students can know the progress they have made.
    – Administrators could communicate with other schools about Health Center habits that are working for their students.
    – What about access to the Bi-Co support system (combine resources with Haverford)? Are they having similar problems that we are?

  • Theme
    Medical leave involves added challenges to students.

    • “Leaving affects one’s sense of self.”
    • “There is lots of conversation about medical leave being encouraged.”
    • “[There needs to be] less power to the Health Center being the end all be all for medical leave. There needs to be more options available for students. If a student does go on medical leave, the college needs to work with them to then get back on campus in the future.”

  • There were no proposed solutions to this issue.

  • Theme
    Seeking care is expensive and not always affordable.

    • “[There is] the financial component of counselling.”
    • “[A person’s] financial situation plays a large role in mental health.”
    • “The Health Center should be more transparent about costs and fees.”

  • Recommendation

    – Transparency about Health Center/Counseling Center costs and fees.

  • Theme
    Many students often feel at a crossroad with the Health Center and the Counseling Center.

    • “It is imperative of knowing who you are going to talk to in a counseling appointment (i.e. an intern or a counselor).”
    • “[Ensure] that counselors stay over the years (and not change constantly).”
    • “Need better counseling in order to know how to handle issues after college.”
    • “The counseling center needs to focus more on the cause than the symptoms.”
    • “Hire better people. And more psychiatrists than counselors.”
    • “The medical side of the Health Center should communicate more with the mental health side, and be better educated about mental health.”
    • “Need for more counselors in the Health Center.”
    • “Different issues for international and domestic students – it would be helpful to have counselors who are specific to international issues.”
  • Recommendations

    -To hire more diverse/heterogeneous counselors (i.e. P.O.C., LGBTQI+, International, etc)
    -Make the basement physically accessible.
    -“Suggestion Box”: Health Center evaluations
    -Hire more psychiatrists than counselors.
    -Hire “more competent” counselors and psychiatrists.
    -Hire more people of color.
    -Establish an evaluation and oversight system for health and mental health professionals on campus.
    -Start a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) group on campus.
    -Re-do the physical space of the Health Center.
    -Hire more MDS rather than PHDs.
    -We should be able to make appointments online.
    -No walk-ins, unless it is a “crisis.”
    -Health Center should play a role in destigmatizing mental health.
    -Once a week, the Health Center should send an email of all the resources that they provide and information about it (i.e. the costs and availability of psychiatrists).
    -Use the DLT as a liaison between the Health Center and students.
    -At the end of the academic year, send out statistics about how many students used counselors, psychiatrists, and whether they were happy or unhappy with their experience.

  • Theme
    “Mental health is multi-faceted: it goes beyond just the Health Center, Deans’ Office, and Counseling Center.”

    • “Learning how to address/confront people with differing opinions related to mental health.”
    • “[We need] more emphasis on coping outside and inside the class: strategic coping.”
    • “[We need] more tangible examples of self-care on campus (not just milk and cookies).”
    • “[We need] more support for people of color and LGBTQ+ people.”
    • “How to cope with isolation and loneliness.”
    • “The normalization of ‘Everyone at BMC has depression/anxiety.’”
    • “The lack of student spaces was striking – BOTH study and non-study.”
    • “Surprising to hear about people’s experiences with the self-care campaign. How do people classify self-care? As just everyday things? Like bathing???”

  • Recommendations

    -Have outdoor and indoor social spaces for students (i.e. Have benches outside, rooms for clubs/ that aren’t about doing homework, etc.)
    -Encourage extracurricular activities like club sports (more variety club sports)
    -Peers are easier to approach than counselors – expanding and training the DLT so that leaders of the hall can help students struggling with mental health.
    -More sponsored access to Philadelphia.

  • Theme
    The severity of mental health issues on campus is not agreed upon or handled well across departments on campus.

    • “Where are the checks and balances on departments – to check on each other and see which departments are doing good/bad?”
    • “If one department is not up to standards, should another department help out?”
    • “How can we measure the standard of a department? We could send out student body surveys on departments like the Health Center and Pensby… people will respond to them because they know it will result in change.”
    • “Surprising that professors weren’t helpful.”

  • Recommendations

    – Creating a forum where professors talk about a wide range of issues that students face.

Publication and Implementation

  • Connector.

    College-Wide Publication

    The Solutions Report was emailed to every student and faculty, as well as distributed throughout the dorms.

  • Connector.

    Front Page Newspaper Story

    The Bi-College News, the most circulated newspaper in the college, published a story about BMCSpeaks and mental health on campus on the front page.

  • Connector.

    Meetings with Administrators

    We held meetings with the President and the Dean of the College, discussing the solutions report and its implications.