Bernice Pescosolido has been waiting 30 years for a movement in mental health awareness on the college level, she said.
Pescosolido, who is the director of IU’s College Toolbox Project, is supporting the school’s campaign for mental health awareness tonight at the IU Cinema.
As part of the film series “Human Connectedness in a Time of Need,” the Cinema is screening “Inside Out,” the 2015 Pixar film that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
“We’ve been very fortunate every year to screen some movies with the IU Cinema, which is just a fabulous place, that align with this idea of having people be more knowledgeable of mental health issues,” she said.
As part of the film series, the cinema will be screening the 2015 drama “Paper Towns” as well.
“Inside Out” tells the story of Riley, a kid who moves across the country, as she is guided by her personified emotions.
College students have strongly connected to the film, Pescosolido said.
“It’s like the move from your hometown to college,” she said. “I think it really resonated with how you have to reestablish your friendships and reestablish your relationships in school. And for some people, that becomes fairly difficult and traumatic.”
Pescosolido said the College Toolbox Project originated as an idea after Glenn Close, the founder of mental health group Bring Change 2 Mind, spoke at IU as part of 2013’s Themester “Connectedness: Networks in a Complex World.”
“It was so well attended, we thought this is going to be an effective way to bring these topics up in the IU community and maybe reach people we’re not reaching in other ways,” she said.
Pescosolido began to work with Bring Change 2 Mind on its national science board, she said.
Following Close’s visit, Pescosolido said she met with several campus administrators over dinner and founded the College Toolbox Project.
“The research started pointing towards maybe we should be focusing on college students rather than the general population,” she said. “They said this would be a good idea, and they looked at me as their scientist and asked if I could do it, and I said ‘yeah.’”
As a result, she said she now oversees the advisory board and student members of the College Toolbox Project.
Much of her work involves working with students and mental health, she said.
She said she tends to focus on how media represents mental health and how she can help students interact with media.
“When you go to the movies, or you watch television, or you interact with your friends, we hope that some of the things we’ve been discussing resonate with what you see,” she said.
Within the past 10 years, colleges have taken steps toward mental health awareness, she said.
“Before that, there was an assumption that people with mental health problems were not here, or that they shouldn’t be here,” she said. “But of course, they were always here.”
Since she began working at the University, she said she has seen the school improve and broaden its mental health support.
“I think IU is moving along really nicely,” she said. “It’s really taking the lead and changing the services and the understanding available to students.”