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Members of the Penn community came together Wednesday afternoon on College Green for the "You Are Not Alone" demonstration. 

Credit: Julio Sosa

Students flocked to College Green on Tuesday afternoon to promote mental health awareness on campus in the wake of a student’s suicide on Monday.

A group of Penn students read anonymously submitted testimonials about struggling with mental health in an hour-long demonstration on College Green entitled “You Are Not Alone: A Demonstration of Support for Mental Health Awareness.”

College and Wharton junior Sophie Phillips organized the demonstration two days after Wharton junior Ao “Olivia” Kong died by suicide. She urged students to “break the silence” and “lift the stigma of mental health” in their own communities throughout Penn.

Phillips also started a petition on Tuesday requesting greater reforms in University policies regarding mental health.

“We want to continue sharing these stories, not just because they talk about a lot of hard things ... but because they’re also stories of hope and bravery, resilience and courage,” she said.

Students anonymously submitted stories of anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles through a Google Form on the event’s Facebook page. Student volunteers then read these stories aloud to the crowd.

One student wrote about the mental health problems she faced while working on her application to medical school. She felt crippling anxiety and questioned many of her life decisions when confronted with the prompt, “introduce yourself.”

Many of the submissions expressed frustration with Penn’s mental health resources, including Counseling and Psychological Services. One student expressed disbelief that she was asked to wait a week to see a counselor after she contacted CAPS and said she had suicidal thoughts.

“Even after saying I had thoughts of suicide and a history of self-harm, I was going to wait a week,” the student wrote.

At 5:10 p.m., about ten minutes after the start of the event, The Daily Pennsylvanian and other media outlets received an emailed announcement from Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price addressing some of the student’s concerns outlined in the petition and voiced at the gathering.

CAPS will have longer hours on evenings and weekends, though the exact times were not stated. The University will also reconvene the year-long mental health task force which last released recommendations in February 2015 and consult mental health professionals and campus leaders for further ideas.

“We have not and will not let resources stand in the way of protecting the mental health needs of our community,” Gutmann and Price wrote.

Despite their criticisms against University policy, students showed solidarity by donning Penn gear “to communicate that we are proud to be part of the Penn community and we know that our community and University can do better to address this issue,” the Facebook page read.

“I hope that this project results in tangible change in University policy and campus culture, and that everyone can be a little kinder and more loving to ourselves and to all our peers and friends at Penn,” one anonymous student wrote.

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