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Reflect at Cornell: Making caring about your mental health “cool”

reflect-cornell-mental-health

By Jack Burger ’19, Co-President of Reflect at Cornell

I have seen the ways in which mental health affects my friends and family, and because of that, it is something that is very important to me. Caring for mental health is becoming a bigger priority on college campuses, yet there is still a student mental health crisis that affects over a quarter of all college students.

According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, 60 percent of college students are not able to speak openly and honestly about their feelings, and are suffering as a result. No student, let alone 60 percent of them, should have some restriction in their ability to voice what is going on their lives. This is something that needs to change, and something I am working on as part of my involvement with the Reflect Organization, specifically in the Cornell chapter.

What is Reflect?

Reflect is a national nonprofit organization that aims to improve students’ mental health. At Cornell, we are able to accomplish this goal through Reflect’s model of bringing students together for entirely student-run and student-facilitated, open and honest conversations. These conversations happen monthly for one hour, over a free dinner, and students are given the opportunity to talk about anything they want. This model helps because it provides a low key, peer-to-peer environment where students can share honestly and candidly. Additionally, because of the dinner setup, it is not meant to be counseling, but just going and discussing thoughts over dinner with your friends. Conversation is stimulated through trained student facilitators, who enable healthy conversation that covers a variety of viewpoints and gets all participants who are interested in talking involved.

Reflect was originally started by Jared Fenton at the University of Pennsylvania, and is now being brought to other college campuses, such as Columbia and LaSalle. For more information on the national organization, be sure to check out https://www.reflecteffect.org/.

Why was Reflect started?

Reflect was started in order to try to fix the college mental health crisis. Many students try to “live out” their social media profiles—meaning they only post positive occurrences, which is not necessarily an accurate reflection of how they always feel—and they are reluctant to share what they are actually feeling with other people. They exhibit what some call “duck syndrome,” in which they act like everything is okay on the surface, similar to a duck gliding on top of a pond, while things are actually turbulent underneath, like how the duck is paddling furiously below. This phenomenon is also sometimes referred to as “Penn Face” or “the undertow” at various college campuses. When original founder Jared Fenton saw instances of duck syndrome himself at the University of Pennsylvania, and then eventually heard about the death of classmate Maddie Holleran, he knew he had to do something. So, he started Reflect.

Why is talking about mental health important?

Talking about mental health is important not only to the Dyson community, but also to the Cornell community as a whole. Students need to have the opportunity to talk about issues that are bothering them in an open and accepting place, and should not feel afraid or unable to do so. This includes all types of students, and reflect is open to students from all different groups across campus, including graduate students! Moreover, there is a large stigma surrounding students sharing their true feelings. This shows itself in the low number of students who use Cornell’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the reluctance to share with others. Reflect aims to combat this and normalize this revealing of how someone is feeling.

As Reflect grows, Cornell will become a more mentally healthy place with a better situation for students and faculty alike. No student should ever feel a need to talk to someone and an inability to do so. Reflect allows them this opportunity. Eventually, if everyone is open and wearing their true selves all of the time, we won’t have a need for Reflect anymore. Even if that means I don’t have a club to run anymore, it means that we did our job, and Cornell will be better off for it.

Details on Reflect at Cornell

I am one of Reflect at Cornell’s co-presidents along with Maddie Feldman ’19 (Human Ecology). Reflect at Cornell meets the first Monday of every month, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., at different locations across campus.

Also be sure to check out the article about us from the Cornell Daily Sun here. You can contact me at jb985@cornell.edu with any questions or if you’d like to join our listserv or become a student facilitator next semester. You can also find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReflectatCornell/.

I hope to see more of my peers at a dinner soon!


Headshot of Jack Burger ’19, co-president of Reflect at CornellAbout Jack Burger ’19

Jack Burger is a Princeton, New Jersey native studying Applied Economics and Management. He has a career interest in the advisory space, specifically with operations and process management. He enjoys photography, playing the ukulele, and collecting vinyl records. On campus he is a co-president of Reflect at Cornell, a member of the Cornell International Affairs Society, and his social fraternity. He loves to travel and spent January of 2017 working in South Africa and summer of 2017 working in Botswana.


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