This year’s senior class gift is a mental health endowment fund to support the UW Counseling Center’s efforts to tackle mental health stigmatization and inform students about available resources.
The fund is associated with the class of 2013’s Mental Health and Wellness Fund, which raised more than $50,000 on the UW Seattle campus, one of the most successful funds yet.
“Hopefully we can raise as much or more as that fund,” said Monica McDonald, project manager for special markets. “Our goal is participation. We want students to give any amount.”
The UW Counseling Center currently provides free resources to all students and a safe environment to help students through outreach, counseling, preventative programming, and consultations.
“Counseling provides space for you to explore on your own, but with someone who has skill to help you through that process,” said Ellen Taylor, counseling center director and assistant vice-president for Student Life.
The senior class gift committee hopes to increase the center’s current demographic since many students are unaware of its presence and services. Rachel Guffey, senior class gift committee co-chair, said it is focused on reaching out to the average student.
“Students at one far end who really need mental health resources in order to get through every single day will seek out the counseling center because they really need it,” Guffey said. “We want to engage those people in the middle of the bell curve. Everyone needs a little push in the right direction and some support, and the UW Counseling Center wants to provide that.”
This project also hopes to break down the current stigma around mental health, which suggests that very few people struggle with mental health issues.
“Trying to break down the stigma is about normalizing the fact that everyone runs into tough times and it’s not only normal, it is to be expected that any person will have a time when they need some help or support,” Taylor said. “We want to build a community where no one slips through the cracks.”
This fund will allow the counselors to increase the scope of their reach.
“While the core of our mission is individual counseling that we do one on one, we want to do more prevention and outreach,” Taylor said. “That starts with providing information, hoping that changes the way people think about things, and creating a society that is a little more accepting of the broad range of human experience.”
Increased awareness and funds could help the center reach more students.
“I wish I would have been able to utilize the counseling center more,” Guffey said. “With this fund, they can bridge that gap to me and students who weren’t able to utilize those free services.”
Senior Geet Chawla used the counseling center in the past and said she was ecstatic to hear the gift decided to focus on mental health awareness and address the misconceptions surrounding it.
“It’s important to make students aware that it’s okay to ask for help, and that’s not something that people do here a lot,” Chawla said. “If you know you’re not feeling well and you’re not functioning the way that you do, that’s when you know you need somebody’s help.”
According to the senior class gift committee, this fund is indicative of the dedication of the class of 2015 to giving back to students and creating a legacy that will benefit students for years to come.
“It’s great to see that seniors are thinking about the future of their peers in the institution,” McDonald said. “I think it’s really great that seniors are investing in future Huskies.”
Current seniors can donate now through June 13 at giving.uw.edu/seniors.
Reach reporter Aleenah Ansari at firstname.lastname@example.org.