ALLENDALE, N.J. – Jared Fenton was a student at the University of Pennsylvania when Allendale’s Madison Holleran jumped off a campus parking garage and died in 2014.
Fenton, who was in Holleran’s class, didn’t know her personally, but he did know others at the school – such as a very close friend – who were experiencing stress or crisis, the Philadelphia native told Daily Voice.
Fenton did some research, and discovered what he calls “a true college student mental health crisis.”
“Students were living their social media profiles rather than who they were,” and struggling to share their true feelings with others, he said.
After studying abroad in Argentina, where he said people talked openly about taking care of their mental health and going to therapy, Fenton decided to initiate change back home.
He pulled together his bartending money and invested it in creating Penn Reflect – an on-campus group dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental health and improving the mental health of students by providing them a safe forum to engage in open and honest discussion.
“We want people to be proud to be whoever they are and to be proud to take off that mask and live as they want to and project as the person who they really truly identify with,” he explained.
At meetings over dinner, trained students moderate small group discussions on topics such as jobs, stress and relationships. Penn Reflect now has over 400 members.
Fenton, who recently graduated, is expanding the group to new universities. This fall, the Reflect Organization will have chapters at Columbia, Cornell and LaSalle, and there is a waiting list to open additional chapters in the spring, he said.
“We want to be everywhere and anywhere we can be,” he said.
Fenton encouraged anyone who would like to get involved, or is interested in opening a new chapter, to visit the organization’s website at www.reflecteffect.org or email him at Jared@reflecteffect.org.
“It is about taking off that mask and being proud of who you are. And if everybody could go and be proud of who they were, and respect others for being who they are, then I think we could really change the culture and make a lot of good things happen,” he said.
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