“Being a student is tough and comes with unique stressors which can lead to anxiety and depression,” says Allison Ariniello, who struggled with mental health issues as an undergraduate student and Women’s Soccer forward at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In her junior year, sports-related injuries and anemia compounded her levels of stress and exhaustion enough to make her consider withdrawing from school. But with the help of others she “came out the other side,” and has since learned to take care of her mind and body to manage her depression and anxiety.
Now a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) at UCLA, Allie (pictured left) helps other struggling students manage their own depression and anxiety through her involvement in the Resilience Peer Network (RPN)- a collective of UCLA undergraduate and graduate students trained to offer support to fellow students through a research collaboration with the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge. “I felt called to lend a hand and ear to students who may be dealing with these issues. I want to let them know that they are not alone, and that although it may require some work… their situation can get better…. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
As a medical student, Allie appreciates how mental health can affect all facets of a patient’s well-being. Mental illness affects millions of individuals and families each year; furthermore, mental illness may often simultaneously occur with other medical diagnoses. Due to this common comorbidity, Allie emphasizes the importance of ensuring that patients are managing their mental health along with their physical health. Allie recognizes that medical students may fail to give adequate attention to their own mental health; this attention is especially important given the considerable challenges that she and her peers face by pursuing a career in medicine.
Through her year-long training to become a Resilience Peer, Allie has developed a deep appreciation for mindfulness, which is a prominent component of the RPN curriculum. All support group sessions and training sessions include mindfulness exercises. Allie strongly relies on her own mindfulness practice to center herself, especially during busy periods, and is thankful that the RPN provides an encouraging space to practice mindfulness with other students.
The RPN has connected Allie with her peers in a deeper way and given new depth to her medical studies. She reveals that the most valuable takeaway from participating in the RPN is realizing that, “you aren’t alone in your anxieties.” This statement reflects the purpose of the RPN because the shared student experience is an active ingredient in delivering treatment. The peer component of the RPN encourages students to relate with each other while learning skills to challenge the maladaptive thoughts that come along with depression and anxiety. Allie has enriched the RPN through her commitment to reaching other students and her emphasis on the importance of mental health in medicine.
– Please see previous coverage on the Resilience Peer Network (RPN).
Media coverage about the Resilience Peer Network (RPN):
Kuhelika Ghosh: Resilience Peer Network is a good substitute for fewer CAPS sessions Daily Bruin, 21 Jan 2016
Resilience Peer Network to supplement student mental health services Daily Bruin, 19 Jan. 2016
All of Us town hall encourages wider discourse on mental health issues UCLA Newsroom, 27 Jan. 2016
UCLA researchers to study success of online mental health therapy Daily Bruin, 17 April 2016
For more information, or to become a Resilience Peer, please contact:
Dr. Elizabeth Gong-Guy UCLA Campus and Student Resilience firstname.lastname@example.org. *If you are interested in becoming a Resilience Peer* please indicate your degree program, year, and a brief statement regarding your interest in joining the program.
This article was written by UCLA Student/Depression Grand Challenge Student Worker, Emilia Szmyrgala.