Fireworks at Reunions 2015.
Princeton University, Office of Communications, Daniel A. Day
When you go back, go forward focused on mental health

With Reunions almost upon us, alumni everywhere are busy unboxing or acquiring the most fab orange and black outfits, along with the right footwear, which is always anybody’s guess. Don’t sweat it, too much. The older your Reunion, the better you know The Rule: When you buy adorable orange rain boots, the sun won’t stop shining. When you snag the cutest tiger stripe sandals, it shall be nothing but mud. 

Whatever the weather brings, whatever you wear, I want to remind you that Reunions offers a huge range of programs to tap into. This year, several events and spaces relate to the issues of health and well-being we explore in this column. In addition, here are a few other wellness rules it can’t hurt to reinforce: 

1. Stay hydrated and use sunscreen
2. Go gently back to Hoagie Haven.  
3. Resist the comparison game. 
4. Follow U-Matter rules 
5. Embrace the shuttles.

In the spirit of “the whole student,” I am highlighting a few panels to check out. One features uniquely inspiring career paths; a second looks at student mental health, as seen by alumni with professional expertise in various settings, and a third focuses on mental health at Princeton. Here are details of these “whole-student”-related panels, all of which are taking place on Friday, May 25th:

Alumni-Faculty Forum: Artistry, Ales, Advocacy and Altruism: Unconventional Career Journeys.  Fri 5/2510:30-11:45 a.m., Thomas Laboratory, Room 3. Moderated by Kate Coppola, director of career advising and partnerships in the Center for Career Development, the discussion will feature: Alison Birmingham ’74, artist; Lauren Taslitz ’79, librettist/lyricist; Timothy C. Wu ’84, executive director, The Battery Powered Foundation; Daniel Gadala-Maria ’09, head brewer, Finback Brewery. Sponsored by the Alumni Association of Princeton University. 

Student Mental Health: Is it a Crisis, and What Can Be Done? Fri 5/25, 2-3:30 p.m. in Thomas Laboratory, Room 3. PAW sponsors a wide-ranging conversation on promising approaches to campus mental health in the current moment. The session will be moderated by Lucy McBride ’95, primary care physician and writer/host of Beyond the Prescription podcast. Panelists will be: Jeremy Nobel ’77, public health practitioner, poet, and author of Project UnLonely: Healing Our Crisis of Disconnection; Jess Deutsch ’91, educational advisor, PAW contributor, “The Whole Student,” former Princeton associate director, student-athlete services and health professions advising; Joshua Blum ’02, psychiatrist at Bucknell and Susquehanna universities; and Chioma Ugwonali ’24, residential college adviser and peer health adviser, wellness organizer, aspiring physician.

Mental Health at Princeton: Challenges, Opportunities and the Path Forward Fri 5/25, 4-5 p.m., McCosh Hall, Room 46. The USG and University leaders will update alumni on current mental health challenges and opportunities at Princeton, with time for Q&A. The session will be moderated by Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15, founding chair, USG Mental Health Initiative Board/Ph.D. candidate at Pardee RAND Graduate School. Panelists will be: Tiffanie Cheng ’24, and Noah Luch ’24 past co-chairs, USG Mental Health Committee; W. Rochelle Calhoun, vice president for Campus Life; Calvin Chin, director, Counseling and Psychological Services. 

Substance-Free Reunions Space

Building on Dr. Kristene DeJesus’ work with Students Recoverthis year Advancement, the Office of Religious Life, and the School of Public and International Affairs are offering an “Orange and Black Oasis.” Students and alumni are invited to socialize, enjoy music, and have refreshments (zero-proof drinks and desserts) in Murray-Dodge Café throughout Reunions. You will also find Qi gong, and Tai Chi, and AA meetings in the Reunions schedule.

Supporting the green ribbons effort, Brooke Shields ’87 holds up a message to the Princeton community: “Mental health is for everyone!”
Supporting the green ribbons effort, Brooke Shields ’87 holds up a message to the Princeton community: “Mental health is for everyone!”
Courtesy of Brooke Shields ’87

Pops of Green

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, alumni and guests have an opportunity to add a small green ribbon to their P-rade attire, thanks to the Class of 2006. Look for ribbons at check-in at Little-Edwards Courtyard (slightly up-campus from Dillon Gym) and available along the P-rade route. In the sea of orange and black, the small green ribbons will show that mental health matters to us as Princeton alumni. To learn more, or to help with ribbon distribution, please contact Jaclyn Lasaracina ’06.

A Personal Note

I write this column in the throes of deep personal loss: My brother has just passed away after a long cancer battle. With our own campus, the country, and the world unsettled and torn apart along painful lines of dispute and silence, activism and apathy, feelings and facts, it feels both impossible and essential to acknowledge hard things. Yet we must find moments of joy, remember to celebrate, and embrace reasons to come together. Vulnerable truth feels more real than the myth of perfection, right? If it helps someone to say, I’m coming to Reunions, feeling sadder than ever, and also looking forward to being with friends and focusing on gratitude — there, I’ve said it. Here’s hoping that your Reunions experience meets the moment, however imperfect and/or wonderful it may be, and that we can all keep “the whole student,” and our whole selves, in each other’s hearts and minds as we go back, and go forward.

If you have stories you’d like to share about imposter syndrome, the impact of war and protests, or other mental health challenges or victories you’ve experienced recently or in the past, reach out to