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The LOVE statue on Locust Walk on March 19, 2021. Credit: Maya Pratt

Student leaders have established the Penn Coalition for Wellness to address the fragmentation of different mental wellness groups.

Created in spring 2022, the Coalition is a partnership between eight groups — Penn Reflect, Active Minds, Penn Benjamins, Penn Walks 2 Wellness, Be Body Positive Penn, Icarus, RAPLine, Cogwell at Penn — as well as the SNF Paideia Program. The organization is currently in the process of gaining recognition from the Student Activities Council, Vice Provost of University Life, and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé.

The Coalition for Wellness aims to advocate for mental health initiatives, interact with the greater Penn community, and serve as a unified resource for mental health on campus.

The three main missions of the board, Coalition for Wellness Liaison and College junior Brinn Gammer said, are to “help people seeking help, seeking involvement [in wellness groups], and then seeking change.”

Falling attendance at events and decreased access to resources after COVID-19 prompted the student leaders of the eight organizations to unify, allowing them to collaborate in their shared missions of promoting mental health.

Co-President of Penn Reflect and College sophomore Venus Tian added that another aim of the Coalition is to “present a stronger voice to administration, a more organized, and less disjointed voice” with a formal and structured partnership between the groups.

By centralizing mental health organizations’ resources, the student leaders hope that those at Penn who are new to the wellness community will be exposed to more like-minded individuals and forge stronger connections.

Coalition for Wellness board member College junior Steven-John Kounoupis said that the Coalition intends to “take on projects and discussions that get wellness more embedded into the definition of what a Penn student is.”

This can include research projects, discussions, or panels with administration and faculty, as well as increased incorporation of mental health into class curriculums or advising offices.

To Kounoupis, the perception that the administration doesn’t care about mental health and terms such as “Penn Face” are major problems concerning mental wellness on campus.

With the Penn Coalition for Wellness, Kounoupis aspires for student leaders and mental health organizations to “unify our administration, our faculty, and our student groups together to make one unified voice that spreads across campus.”

Penn Benjamins is one mental health organization that has partnered with the Coalition for Wellness. Penn Benjamins is a peer-to-peer counseling organization that aims to individually support students, according to Penn Benjamins President and College junior Emily Huynh. For her, Penn Benjamins had a clear goal in joining the Coalition.

“The fragmentation has definitely not been helpful for us, and we kind of knew that and that’s why we wanted to team up to get a bigger voice out there,” she said. 

Penn Reflect is another mental health organization that has partnered with the Coalition for Wellness. Co-President of Penn Reflect and College sophomore Jessica Jia said that each month, they offer roundtable events aimed at promoting openness and wellness.

According to Tian, these monthly roundtable events center around “self-love and self-care, community and belonging, [and] stressing or anxiety.”

At the beginning of this semester, the Coalition for Wellness sponsored multiple mental health events, including one at New Student Orientation. They also supported the recent “Send Silence Packing” event, which was a national suicide prevention event.