In the world we’re currently living in, health has become a center point of most conversations. Obviously, people are concerned with their physical health due to the ongoing pandemic, but after months of quarantining and no end in sight, mental health seems to be a side thought. In an effort to try and address the mental toll this pandemic may be taking on fellow students at Grace, Bella Johnson ‘22 recently started the Mental Wellness Affinity Space in which she hopes to, “make a space as welcoming, supportive, and non-judgmental as possible.” The meetings, which take place weekly, consist of student-led conversations about their feelings and experiences with the hope to try and generate more awareness towards mental health at 46 Cooper Square.
Not long after the first meeting, which took place on September 21st, I reached out to Bella asking her about the origins of the club and why this was an issue she wanted to explore. In her words, she said “I started this club because mental health is something I am very passionate about, and it is something so many teenagers struggle with in silence, especially during quarantine, and I feel like a safe mental health support group was needed for those who don’t want to suffer in silence anymore.” When questioned about the longevity of the Mental Health Affinity Space in the aftermath of COVID-19, particularly the virtual learning and quarantine aspects, Bella added that she plans to, “continue this [club] even after COVID-19 because even if COVID-19 were to go away, mental health is still a prominent topic, something many people have unfortunately struggled with even before the virus.”
After their inaugural affinity space meeting, Bella spoke about how she considered it to be “very successful” and said, “the topic of mental health tends to create a sense of unity, especially during this time when unity is more important than ever.” Mental health, especially in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, affects people’s health not only physically, but also mentally. This past July, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) published an article re-emphasizing Bella’s reason to start her affinity space, with the organization recognizing how “fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.” They continued on, saying “public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Bella’s efforts are beneficial to every student at Grace, whether they realize it or not. Everyone struggles with mental health and the most important thing to do to address that struggle is to talk about it openly. The Mental Health Affinity Space offers that opportunity for necessary dialogue and has proven to be exactly what Grace needs in a time like this because while often given minor attention, maintaining proper mental health is a massive part of our ability to operate in a stable mindset.