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Grace Ragi is the chair of Penntal Health — an online magazine that is now moving to print after receiving sufficient funding.

Credit: Jashley Bido

From testimonials to poetry, art is being used as a way for Penn students to address their mental health concerns.

This semester, mental health-focused student organization Active Minds will be publishing the first print issue of its literary magazine, Penntal Health. The publication, which first appeared in online form in spring 2015, features students’ writing and artwork centered around their personal experiences with mental illness.

“I think it’s really hard to relate to mental illness if you don’t have experience with it,” College sophomore and Penntal Health Chair Grace Ragi said, “[but] if someone is just pouring their heart out on the page, it’s a lot harder to say ‘That isn’t your experience. That’s not true.’”

College sophomore and Active Minds co-President Kathryn DeWitt said that the idea for Penntal Health grew out of the popularity of Pennsive, a Tumblr account created by Active Minds for Penn students to share their stories related to mental health. Pennsive was started by 2015 College graduate Yuki Knapp and College seniorMaya Nauphal in January of 2014, and coincided with a period of several suicides on Penn’s campus, in which nine students took their own lives over the course of two years.

“Through Pennsive, students were able to express a lot of what they were feeling as Penn students,” DeWitt said, “and in the wake of the suicides, a lot of other people talked about being suicidal or not having a great time at Penn.”

One of the most popular submissions to Pennsive was titled “A Cup of Coffee with a Fellow Suicide Attempt Survivor,” by 2015 College graduate Jack Park. In his submission, Park shared how he overcame his suicide attempt and offered to grab coffee with anyone who would like to talk with him about their own struggle with depression or anything else they might want to confide in someone. DeWitt said that over 100 students took him up on that offer that same semester.

“We were tapping into something real,” DeWitt said, “things [Penn students] wanted to talk about, but didn’t think they had an avenue to discuss.”

DeWitt said that many of the submissions to Pennsive were of such a high artistic quality that the Active Minds board felt they needed to get it out on a wider scale, and so they created the web edition of Penntal Health.

Active Minds hopes the first print edition will be out in time for INSPIRE, a mental health-centered performance night that they will host on April 9 in the Rodin rooftop lounge. However, they have had difficulty finding a publisher who can meet their limited budget. Active Minds’ other co-President and College junior Peter Moon said that they were unable to secure funding from the Student Activities Council for printing costs of the magazine, but that they won $500 this semester through a competition run by the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona.

Penntal Health is currently accepting submissions for its next edition.

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