Josh is a senior from Deerfield, Illinois. He is double majoring in cognitive studies and public policy studies, and minoring in Medicine, Health, and Society. His interest in politics grew from holiday discussions between his extended family and reading the Chicago Tribune every morning before school. Josh is on the club baseball team at Vanderbilt. He loves to read and hike with his Golden Retriever Sophie.
In a stunning finding from Vanderbilt Medical Center, mental illness is on its way to being cured on Vanderbilt’s campus. A team of researchers at the medical center investigated the impact of mental health initiatives being led by fraternities and sororities on Vanderbilt’s campus and found that they are wildly effective.
The hallmark of these programs are large white banners hung from the porches of Greek houses with spray-painted writing that reads “come to SAE,” for example; inviting Vanderbilt students to step into the houses and discuss their inner turmoil with the finest (slightly inebriated) frat-bros the campus has to offer.
Vanderbilt freshman Nick Kaplan was at first hesitant to discuss his crippling anxiety with local frat members. However, according to Kaplan, after walking by the fraternity house and seeing them heaving beers onto their roof, he knew that this was the perfect environment to deal with his mental health issues.
The study from Vanderbilt medical center seems to confirm this. Lead researcher Dr. David Simon outlined the study for VPR. The research looked at patients with anxiety and depression and compared those who chatted with Greek-members on their porch to those who received traditional clinical treatment.
“Instead of investing money in hiring more therapists or expanding operating hours of the Undergraduate Counseling Center, which students have long called for, he need only hang large white banners on the porches of fraternities and sororities.”
Patients who went to Greek houses to discuss their depression or anxiety were more likely to see improvements in their symptoms. The researchers are unsure if it is the actual act of “chilling out” with the Greek-members or the large white banners themselves that have been so effective at ameliorating mental health problems. Dr. Simon explained “the Greek members are, like, no doubt super cool, mad chill, and easy to talk to about stuff, but those banners—they are just so big and so white, they are fantastic.”
Those in the psychological sciences used to think that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) coupled with pharmacological treatments such as antidepressants were the gold standard for treating mental illness. However, as this study suggests, it turns out that talking to frat-guys on their porch is demonstrably more effective at addressing mental health issues.
Researchers are excited by these findings and hope to integrate similar programs at other schools. Dr. Simon explained “we know this program has a positive impact through fraternities in the SEC, but now we want to see if this initiative would be effective with frats at Big Ten schools.”
These findings are particularly interesting because they come out as the Vanderbilt administration has made a point of touting their new “coordinated care network” to address students’ mental health needs. The researchers have contacted Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos to explain that instead of investing money in hiring more therapists or expanding operating hours of the Undergraduate Counseling Center, which students have long called for, he need only hang large white banners on the porches of fraternities and sororities.