On Thursday, March 11, at 5 p.m., the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership sponsored another rendition of the “Let Her Speak: Amplifying Voices and Fostering Conversation” series. The event was geared toward discussing the intersection between gender and mental health. This conversation was open to all students on campus via Zoom and lasted about an hour. Students were put into a breakout room together that functioned as a listening circle, giving them a space to share the ways in which gender impacts their mental health and to connect with others around them.
The conversation was facilitated by Maddy Bishop and Mikayla Desaye, who are both members of the organization Peers Offering Wellness Education and Resources (POWER) at the University. It was supervised by Danielle Ross, the Assistant Director of the McNulty Institute. However, the event was the result of a project undertaken by Maddie Cerulli and Katherine Mayer, who are both Lorenzini Leadership Ambassadors at the McNulty Institute.
“It was so nice to have a designated space to discuss the intersection of mental health and gender as we see it on campus and in our daily lives,” Cerulli said. “I think a lot of women on campus feel the same way about the added exhaustion that comes from navigating gender stereotypes on top of all the other mental health struggles college students face.”
Cerulli’s sentiment is especially pertinent now, given the way that women at the University have been dealing with the sexual assaults happening on campus. She also expressed that mental health needs to be inclusive for all students, not allowing stereotypes to diminish their value.
“One thing we talked about is how conversations about gender and mental health are usually focused on how in general, men are discouraged from sharing about their emotions due to notions about masculinity and not looking weak,” Cerulli said. “This conversation is so important, but it should happen alongside the conversation about women’s mental health, as sometimes for the same gendered biases, women’s health is dismissed as them being emotional or dramatic.”
Mayer echoed similar sentiments about the productive nature of the event.
“It brought to my attention other aspects about the connection between gender and mental health on campus that I had not previously thought about,” she said. “We talked a lot about body image and the ways in which that impacts routines on campus, which was something I hadn’t really thought about before. The overall themes discussed in the conversation were pretty universal, so everyone was able to connect on some level.”
For ways that issues about the intersection of gender and mental health can be addressed on campus, both Cerulli and Mayer advocated for more conversations similar to this one that can help give people spaces where they feel comfortable opening up about mental health. This could also involve holding the University accountable for allocating more resources to make mental health feel like it is a priority for all students, making sure to be inclusive of all identities.
Getting more involved in organizations like POWER and the McNulty Institute at the University is also a great way to help keep these conversations about gender and mental health going.
“Apply to be a Lorenzini Leadership Ambassador,” said Mayer. “The McNulty Institute will be sending out information in the coming weeks about applying, and it is a fantastic way to connect with other students on campus while making change.”
If interested in becoming a Lorenzini Leadership Ambassador, keep an eye out for the upcoming application. There will also be another Let Her Speak event on Thursday, March 25 from 7-8 p.m. about the Unsung Figures of Women’s History. This event will be run in partnership with Get Woke Nova and My Sister’s KeepHER.