TWO OF A KIND: Kelly Gao and Anmol Jain, seniors in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Wharton School, respectively, are core members of the Penn Wellness team. Gao is the group’s treasurer and Jain is its internal chair. Penn Wellness serves as the umbrella organization for the 20-plus student-run wellness groups on campus.
STAYING WELL: Penn Wellness, which is funded by the Vice Provost for University Life and advised by Counseling and Psychological Services, works to foster collaboration between the different wellness groups, and disseminate wellness information, resources, and initiatives to the student body. “We are bringing together everyone, creating this community to help support each other, and bring more visibility to wellness in general,” says Gao.
ALWAYS HERE: “It can be a little jarring to be in such an intensely competitive, high-pressure environment,” says Jain. She says one of the goals of Penn Wellness is to help validate those feelings, “to give people a sense of, ‘Hey, what you are feeling is totally normal, and if you ever need to de-stress or want to reach out, we are here for you,’ kind of thing.”
SOMETHING NEW: This semester, in an effort to help even more student mental health and wellness organizations get off the ground, Gao and Jain plan to spearhead “office hours,” where they block out a period of time to talk with new groups about logistics, such as getting recognized on the Student Activities Council.
A GOOD FRIEND: Both Gao and Jain got involved with wellness initiatives on campus their freshman year. “In the Asian community, and in my family, I would say mental health issues aren’t very well understood, so I just wanted to learn how I could be a good supporter and listener to a friend who was struggling,” explains Gao. Jain’s sentiments are similar: An international student from a town in India where everyone seemed the same, and knowing Penn would be very diverse, she says, “I wanted to be a good friend to people whose issues I didn’t understand myself.”
LEND AN EAR: They first served as staff members, and later as board members, on the Reach-A-Peer Helpline, a student-run peer helpline available every night from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The service is for students who want to share a problem, are in need of information, or just want to talk about something on their mind. “After that first semester of training, I stuck with it because I admired the mission a lot,” says Jain. “And then once I took my first phone call, the feeling you get at the end of having helped someone is fantastic.”
CHANGE MAKERS: Gao and Jain say they are happy to see mental health awareness on campus grow. “The landscape of wellness at Penn has changed so much in just a few years,” says Jain. Gao adds, “It’s amazing what we have been able to accomplish, building strong relationships, working together, and trying to make changes.”