Kayla Morin (Trumbull ‘20) is leading the charge on Yale’s newest mental health project. She, along with a team of other dedicated students, has developed a mental health workshop for first-years. The workshop is in the last steps of being approved by the Yale administration, and will be offered next year as part of a series of Yale’s new “First-Year Experience” workshop series.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m a sophomore in Trumbull, I’m from Montana, and I’m a Neuroscience major.
How did you get involved in the new mental health workshop project?
Harry Loho was the founder, or at least, he came to a Mind Matters meeting, which I am also involved in, and he was just like ‘Hey, I’m trying to do this thing, we’ve written a script and we’re trying to get it approved by the administration…’ But the rest of the people he had worked with had already graduated, and so it was just him left. He was looking for a team, so I emailed him and started working with him on the script.
What have been the most important aspects of mental health that you’ve wanted to touch on in writing the script and developing the workshop?
I think our primary goal is to bring up the conversation and get people to start to think about the fact that mental health plays a role in everyone’s life, especially here at Yale. So, primarily, we talk about signs of what to look out for in either a friend or yourself, and then what you should do to bring it up with a friend who you notice is struggling, and what resources you can try to look for.
Originally, our script was just an exercise about practicing conversations about that sort of thing, and then the administration was like ‘Hey, actually, you have to take a step back, because a lot of people haven’t even thought about mental health.’ And so we stepped back and focused on talking more broadly about what you should look out for, what you can try to do when you’re talking to [your friends], how to look out for people if you notice they are struggling, etc.
Are the workshops going to be mandatory?
They are not part of Camp Yale, but next year there will be something called the “First-year Experience,” which will take place primarily the second half of first semester, and it will bleed into the rest of the year. And there are going to be eight workshops in that, and first-years have to sign up for six. So there are going to be things like financial literacy, study habits, and then our workshop will be a part of that.
What have been some of the biggest challenges that you face in doing all of this?
Well first of all, in the beginning of the year it was just Harry and I, so getting more people showing up to meetings was kind of our first hurdle, and then out of nowhere, I remember one meeting we had almost twenty people there. And I was like, ‘Woah! This is working!’
And right now we are working on getting our workshop leaders. We accepted applications and we were expecting to get like maybe 30, and we got around 80. It’s really exciting that so many people are really passionate and interested in it, but we can’t have 80 workshop leaders. Sorting between the applications is really difficult, because anyone who’s interested should be able to do it. But now we’re interviewing people, and are going to finalize our first team soon.
Other than just establishing organization, one of the biggest challenges has been determining what we need to talk about in the script, because we only have an hour. Mental health is so complex, and we want to hit on so many different things, but everyone is coming from different backgrounds and different places. But at least for our first workshop, we’ll probably be as general as possible while still bringing up the conversation.
And then we’ve also had a lot of backlash against saying that Yale Health is a resource. That’s one of our biggest criticisms when we pilot the workshop. We say that Yale Health is an option, and that you should be proactive. We kind of look at it like, everyone goes to the dentist. You should just schedule an appointment for later. You should almost do the same thing for mental health — just anticipate that you’ll need it for later. But even then, it’s really hard to get an appointment, and even then, you have to wait a really long time. And we’re trying to be understanding of their limitations. We don’t want to try to bash on Yale Health, or anything like that. So we’re trying to portray it as it is, but then also say that there are other resources. That’s definitely been one of our biggest criticisms, and it’s definitely hard to work around.
What do you see for yourself and for your organization in the future?
We want this to be open not only to first-years. We want to be able to host workshops for whoever is willing. Kind of how the bystander intervention was for sophomores, maybe we can try to open it up and have everyone sign up. And I think also, assuming our organization becomes large enough, we want to be able to have different workshops cater to different mental illnesses. We could have one talking about depression, one about psychosis, just to get more in depth about each topic individually.
What made you get involved with Mind Matters in the first place?
I have personal experience with mental health, and a family history also of mental health issues. I struggled a lot my first year, and part of the reason I struggled so much was because I didn’t realize anyone else was also struggling. Everyone else was putting up this facade, and I thought I was the odd one out. And then one of my suitemates mentioned that she was also struggling, and we kind of opened up about it. And I realized that, if it’s such a large issue on campus, the culture should start to change. When Harry walked into the Mind Matters meeting, I got really excited. I think it’s really important. Everyone should know that there are other people there, and that there are resources, and that you shouldn’t have to go through anything alone.
Thanks so much for your time! Good luck with the project going forward.
Interview by Sabrina Bustamante.