Members of Student Government’s new mental health taskforce held its first town hall to help students find mental health resources in Gainesville.

At the meeting Thursday in the Reitz Union, students spoke about mental health and the Counseling & Wellness Center, for which  UF Provost Joe Glover recently secured permanent funding for eight new mental health counselors, according to Alligator archives.

Gregory Davis, a public relations specialist at Gainesville Peer Respite, told the crowd of about 30 students about the services the nonprofit organization provides, including support groups, phone support, wellness activities and overnight stays for up to eight days.

Davis said the organization, located at 728 E. University Ave., is unique because there are no counselors or hierarchies. Instead, it’s led by peers, people who have gone through mental illness.

Davis said he sees a benefit in helping people talk about their mental health.

“It is sometimes easier to talk to people we don’t really know, who aren’t in our inner circle,” he said. “Every guest that comes into the respite, we talk to them as a friend.”

The task force disclosed their goals during the hourlong town hall, which included increasing mental health awareness on campus, getting four new counselors in the CWC and engaging the Student Body in their efforts.

Sophia Ahmed, a 19-year-old UF materials science and engineering sophomore and task force member, said hiring more counselors for the CWC would strengthen UF.

“We have this saying on campus, ‘Every Gator Counts’. This is one way to make it truly count,” Ahmed said.

Task force members asked the audience questions about the climate of mental health at UF, including questions about how the taskforce can help them and what improvements can be made to current mental health services.

Students expressed frustration with the wait times to see counselors at the CWC.

Dhara Patel, a 20-year old UF Spanish sophomore, said she sometimes felt she was not being heard by her counselors.

“I have had good and bad experiences with the Counseling & Wellness Center,” Patel said. “I really encouraged my friends to go and they came back extremely disappointed, so even with the counselors we do have, I think better training would be effective.”

Patel decided to come to the town hall because of her trust issues with SG, she said. She also said she wants to see the CWC grow.

“I just wanted to come and voice what the needs are of other students who could benefit from the Counseling & Wellness Center,” she said.

@camille_respess

[email protected]