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Credit: Julio Sosa

On Tuesday morning, Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum sent out the second email to all undergraduates since Wharton junior Ao “Olivia” Kong’s death.

The subject of the email was “A Message to Students Regarding Mental Health Support at Penn.” In the body of the email, the Provost and Vice Provost wrote that “recent, tragic events at Penn remind us powerfully of the need to build a community in which we all look out for one another,” but did not specifically cite Kong’s suicide.

The email announced that “in the interim, effective Wednesday, April 20,” Counseling and Psychological Services’ hours will be extended until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays. The email did not include an end date for the expanded services.

The email goes on to introduce a new “How to Help a Friend” guide, the PNG of which was attached to the email. “[The guide] provides guidelines that we can all follow to help support each other, as well a comprehensive list of resources for mental health at Penn,” the email said, adding that similar guides will be distributed to staff and faculty.

According to the email, physical copies will also be distributed by mail next week to students.

The guide begins by saying that “college friends learn together how to deal successfully with balancing academic and extracurricular stress, developing independence, and experiencing new people, cultures, and ideas. Friends help each other through difficult times like break-ups or family tragedies.” The rest of the guide includes sections like “When to be concerned about a friend,” “Physical or psychological signs your friend may need help,” and “Things you can do to help.”

The email also reminded students about the University help line, and applauded the work of student groups that work to improve mental health on campus.

Students expressed confusion about the email, citing concerns over the effectiveness of the plan and the fact that messages have come from multiple people within the administration.

“I don’t think that extending CAPS hours will help us solve the problems we have,” said College junior Noah Onoff. “I think the CAPS process needs to be streamlined because students find it difficult and confusing.”

Wharton sophomore Zachary Stimler thought the email diluted the point, saying that “emails from different sources make the overall message more confusing. It would be more impactful if the message came from one place.”

Contributing reporter Ray Pomponio contributed reporting.

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