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DSG’s new student wellness caucus to unite mental health resources, address issues with current programs

Duke Student Government’s former student wellness advisory committee and mental health caucus have merged to form the student wellness caucus. 

Following criticism in the 2018-19 academic year that DSG was not adequately representing all voices on campus, DSG members created caucuses to advocate for and work with particular campus demographics. But last year, some caucuses found it difficult to distinguish between their role and that of other organizations with similar missions.

The mental health caucus was founded by senior Shrey Majmudar, DSG chief of staff, in September 2019. The caucus brought together students from NeuroCare, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Peer for You to collectively advocate for students’ mental health. 

The student wellness advisory committee (SWAC) was a DSG affiliate body focused on student health from a holistic approach. They had strong formal ties to the administration which allowed them to initiate projects to improve Duke students’ overall health. These projects included developing and designing the Wellness Center module on the DukeMobile app, creating K-Ville wellness packages and helping build the Oasis Perkins mindfulness room. 

While both groups had similar focuses, “we found none of these groups were talking to each other, they were all doing their own thing,” Majmudar said.

In fall 2020, SWAC’s leader stepped down and the group quickly disbanded. 

Majmudar and junior Hana Hendi, DSG vice president of services and sustainability, decided to “combine the forces together into one very cohesive body, which worked with our mental health administrators,” Majmudar said. 

Caucus meetings will focus on enhancing communication between wellness-focused student groups. The caucus also plans on meeting with various administrators in hopes of providing an avenue for students to offer feedback on ongoing University initiatives. 

“Our goal is to ensure student groups, governors, senators and representatives are coming together and working towards common goals related to mental health and wellness on campus, and addressing potential issues with current services,” said sophomore Nicole Rosenzweig, senator of academic affairs.

The caucus plans to continue previous projects, including the mental health forum, created in spring 2019, and mental health awareness week. They also hope to introduce new programs, like mental health first aid training. 

The Student Wellness Caucus will continue to have representatives from NeuroCare, NAMI and Peer for You. They also plan to collaborate with other groups on campus, including Duke Emergency Medical Services, DukeLine, Peer Advocacy for Sexual Health, Sexual Harassment & Assault Prevention & Education, GlobeMed, Duke Student Health, DukeReach, DuWell, Counseling & Psychological Services and the Women’s Center. 

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