PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An alarming number of college students have committed suicide across the country. As a result there’s a growing concern about mental health issues on campuses.
A special group at the University of Pennsylvania called Penn Reflect is a place where students are helping each other through emotional turmoil to make sure the stress of being a student is addressed.
The Ivy League university is a bastion of academic excellence. Along with the privilege and prestige of an Ivy League school comes an expectation for students that means more than just getting good grades.
“Across the board, there’s a lot of pressures that we’re faced with,” said senior Tai Bendit.
But that pressure and the stress that goes with it is usually hidden in this culture of perfection in the form of what’s known as the Penn Face.
“People trying to present themselves as not who they are but rather what they perceive others want them to be,” says Jared Fenton, a senior who is studying political science. “Students who feel like they have to present themselves as going out every single night, never studying but still getting straight A’s which is insane, nobody can do that.”
While Penn has plenty of remarkable success stories, suicides are also very high here.
It’s been catastrophic,” says nursing student Phoebe Hollyer who is in her senior year. “Actually I have some personal experiences knowing students who have attempted or completed suicide.”
Penn Reflect is a student group where difficult and complicated emotions are discussed.
“Talking about it acknowledges that it’s there and it’s a problem you can move to fix it,” says freshman Rodney Dailey.
Jared Fenton, started Penn Reflect last year.
Today the group has 400 members.
I thought it would be beneficial to create a place where students could share their personal stories with other students in a safe environment where there’s no pressure,” says Fenton.
They get together monthly to talk about everything from dating disappointments to overbearing parents.
I think Penn Reflect is a great opportunity to allow students to have an open space, for people to be vulnerable and express themselves,” says Hollyer.
“We all share these same human problems and troubles and it’s very comforting just that this is a shared experience, Benton said.
The university is supportive of groups like Penn Reflect.
The school has a task force on student psychological health and welfare, acknowledging the importance of addressing emotional issues.