Oct 5, 2015

Jacob Swiatek – Northwestern

Pursuit of Greatness
Jacob Swiatek – Northwestern

As seen in The Daily Northwestern

A new mental health organization has formed at Northwestern University with the intent of helping male students overcome the stigma against getting help.

MENtal Health, founded by Illinois Alpha junior Jacob Swiatek late Spring Quarter 2015, was created when Swiatek noticed that various on-campus mental health resources were predominantly used by females.

“One of the largest demographics on campus that isn’t receiving attention are guys,” Swiatek said.

“As a guy I thought a lot about what kind of resources I would have liked and what kind of resources should be offered to my friends and fraternity brothers.”

To encourage men to speak out about their mental health issues, Swiatek said MENtal Health has two main goals: to reduce the stigma around men’s mental health and to get people to use available resources as well as provide resources of their own.

As the group is still in its developmental stages, Swiatek said he plans to focus on members of fraternities before extending to the rest of campus.

“We do want to branch out beyond just fraternities, but we figured it’s just an easier place to start because we’re very new and a lot of us involved with the group know fraternities well,” said MENtal Health member Justin Shannin, a Communication senior and a member of Delta Chi.

Currently, the group is all-male, with 10 of its 12 members affiliated with five different fraternities. As members of Greek life, they have all either experienced mental health issues or have seen their brothers go through difficult times, said Weinberg sophomore Grant Murphy-Herndon, a member of Phi Delta Theta.

“I had a pretty tough Winter Quarter,” Murphy said. “I’m from the South, so winter was particularly hard for me and I had a number of friends who also had some trouble as well. Almost no one took advantage of anything that was on campus.”

To combat the lack of initiative in men to reach out for help, the group has come up with several ways to bring their services to fraternities. Swiatek said the organization’s programming will target men going through the stressful rush process. MENtal Health’s initiatives include helping new member educators develop mental health programming, giving presentations on mental health to fraternities, participating during rush firesides to new member groups and providing a safe space for anyone who needs to talk, Swiatek said.

Interfraternity Council President Mark Nelson said he supports the group and wishes it had been around when he was rushing.

“I’m excited about it,” Nelson, a Weinberg senior, said. “This is a great program for people who are like me who don’t necessarily feel comfortable just opening up to others.”

In addition to developing its own programming, Swiatek said he wants MENtal Health to work closely with existing mental health organizations — both student- and University-run — such as Counseling and Psychological Services, NU Active Minds and NU Listens.

“I do truly believe that given the opportunity, guys do want to open up and talk about these issues,” Swiatek said. “It’s just that with the current way things are done, guys have to go out of their way in order to go to these spaces and we want to bring it to them.”

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