This year’s Wellness Week expanded what mental wellness looks like at Penn by including therapy goats, workshops on sexual wellness, and a discussion of women and climate change.
Wellness Week, an annual event at Penn, featured free fitness classes at Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, workshops on topics like nutrition and self-affirmation, the launch of “Dear Penn Freshmen” letters, and free donuts on Locust Walk. Events were scheduled from April 1 to April 7 and were sponsored by Penn Wellness, an umbrella group for student wellness organizations on campus, as well as other student wellness groups.
Penn Wellness Board Co-Chair and College sophomore Jennifer Richards said this year, the group tried to examine wellness through a wider lens.
“We really this year tried to focus not just on the first things that come to mind when you think of wellness, like emotional or social wellness, but we also thought about sexual wellness and environmental wellness,” she said.
Wellness Board Co-Chair and Engineering junior Yasmina Al Ghadban added that Wellness Week events differ every year depending on the constituent wellness groups organizing the events. Ghadban said this year, Penn Wellness included more groups beyond traditional mental health organizations, such as the Penn Association for Gender Equity, which hosted an informal study break Saturday to discuss sexual wellness and the female orgasm.
Events began on Monday with free donuts from Counseling and Psychological Services, yoga classes in Pottruck, and a guided meditation with Campus Health in Houston Hall.
On Tuesday, the LGBT Center set up a "Wellness Web" art installation. Students wrote messages of wellness on index cards and hung them on a string net, taking messages written by others for themselves.
The “Dear Penn Freshmen” initiative, a collection of letters written by upperclassmen to their freshmen selves, held its 2019 launch event Wednesday night as attendees listened to students reading the letters they wrote. College senior Gretchen Bednarz, one of the organizers of the event, said the letters can be an important source of guidance to younger students at Penn.
“A lot of freshmen don’t know they are going through things that other people are going through,” Bednarz said. “Hearing from upperclassmen and being able to reconcile that with your own experience, it’s good for mental health, it’s good for the hope and comfort you can feel going forward.”
Nursing and Wharton junior Grace Nie said she attended the event as an upperclassman because she feels the topics discussed are still a strong reminder about the important aspects of college.
“I think especially Penn kids have a tendency to take on more than they can handle, and this is a great reminder to not committing to as many things,” Nie said. She added that student presenters talked about using services such as CAPS, which is "a great reminder of the resources on campus.”
Thursday featured the "Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.) Day of Play," featuring therapy goats, free food, arts and crafts, and an awards ceremony.
On Thursday evening, Penn’s Abuse and Sexual Prevention group led “Take Back the Night,” an international movement and protest against sexual violence. Following a march around campus, survivors of sexual violence gathered in Houston Hall where they had the opportunity to speak out in a safe and intimate setting.
Richards said she was most looking forward to the week's culminating event, a collaboration with Penn Athletics called "Same Here, Sit Down." The Sunday night event focused on the destigmatization of mental health among athletes.
“I'm particularly passionate about it because I’m a varsity athlete at Penn and I think mental health is not addressed enough within athletics,” Richards said. “I think this is a really great start.”
College senior Megha Nagaswami, who stopped by the Reach-a-Peer Helpline table, said interest in Wellness Week is expanding.
“I think generally there's just been growing interest in Wellness Week," Nagaswami said. “I know when I was a freshman the activities were confined to the wellness space, but especially this year, I’ve seen people not necessarily affiliated with any board that are still interested and learning about wellness.”