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Interview with a Certified Resilience Peer

Upon reading the title above, many questions may come to mind: What is a Resilience Peer? What do they do? Why are they important? By the end of this interview, I hope to help answer all of those questions.

A Resilience Peer is a UCLA student (undergraduate or graduate) that is a part of the Resilience Peer Network (RPN), a group that offers peer-to-peer counseling and support outside of a clinical setting. Participants in RPN undergo internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is very effective for managing mental health, especially mild to moderate Depression and Anxiety which are the main focus of RPN. Trained Resilience Peers offer individual or group therapy sessions to students who have screened into the program, under the supervision of licensed professionals.

One goal of RPN is to expand the availability of effective care to UCLA students who face challenges accessing guidance at existing mental health services. Recently, RPN teamed up with UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge, the biggest Depression study in history; the Grand Challenge aims to reach and collect information on 100K individuals from around the world to better understand the origins of Depression, as well as develop new treatments to combat it. The challenge, in collaboration with faculty members in numerous departments at UCLA, desires to cut the burden of Depression in half by 2050 and eliminate it by the end of the century. UCLA, with its diverse population of students, leading expertise in many fields, and large connection of networks throughout the world, is using its resources to find a solution that millions will benefit from. If you want a quick overview of the Depression Grand Challenge and to learn of its many other goals, watch this YouTube video that covers it all.

The Interviewee

Now that we have some background information about RPN and what it does for mental health, let’s get to know a bit about the girl with all of the details, our backstage pass to RPN, our interviewee, Mandy Mekhail. She is a fourth year undergraduate student with a passion for Psychology and Disability Studies. She’s been an ASK Peer Counselor, New Student Advisor, and a GRIT Coach during her time at UCLA, but, most importantly, she’s been an advocate for mental health through it all! If you’d like to know a bit more about her awesomeness, she learned how to play, and in fact beat, her first video game before she was four years old. For all of the reasons above, she is clearly qualified to assist us as we delve into the world of RPN.

The Interview

Q: When did you decide to join RPN?

A: I first joined RPN last year when I was serving as Events Director of Active Minds, a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission (SWC) that is dedicated to changing the conversation surrounding mental health.

Q: How has joining RPN helped or influenced you?

A: I consider myself a stanch mental health advocate and this opportunity has allowed me to come across many different populations of people. These experiences have encouraged me to approach anyone I meet with kindness and cultural humility. My goal is to listen to understand, not listen to respond.

Q: Why do you think bringing access to mental health support is important for students to know about?

A: There is no denying that students here are busy. RPN and internet-based cognitive therapy provides students with much more flexibility in seeking treatment. It’s arrival signals the importance that mental health has, not only in our school, but in our society.

Q: How has RPN and the Depression Grand Challenge helped erase some of the stigmas surrounding mental health?

A: RPN does a wonderful job of challenging stigma within our student body by normalizing the presence of depression and anxiety by emphasizing that there are other students, just like us, who also struggle. In that respect, I would argue that RPN removes some of the isolation that might go hand in hand with both a student’s busy schedule, and a decreased focus of self-care.

Q: What would you tell someone looking to get involved with RPN?

A: I would tell someone looking to join RPN to think about what the program could provide for them, but also what they could provide for the program and the people within it. As a certified resilience peer, we have the opportunity to facilitate a shared space of empathy and trust. The things we do have a profound impact on others, whether they realise it or not. With all that being said, I would recommend that the person think about their strengths and weaknesses, because we all have areas to grow in, as well as areas in which we uniquely flourish.

We all have mental health, and it’s important that we do all that we can to help maintain it, for ourselves and for all of those around us. If you are a strong advocate for mental health and feel as though the Resilience Peer Network is for you, contact Dr. Elizabeth Gong-Guy at and provide information concerning your degree program, year, and a bit about why you are interested in joining the program. If you would like to receive treatment from RPN, visit for more information and to participate in the iCBT Student Study screening, which will determine your eligibility. Follow #BlueForHope online and on social media to discover more people joining to the Depression Grand Challenge to greater our understanding of a mental illness that is the number one source of misery in the world, and that affects so many people around us.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.



Taking Care of Your Mental Health in College: 3 Common Challenges


College is often a wonderful experience for young men and women, providing a path to discover more about themselves and their desired field of education. However, this journey can also bring with it many rigors that may affect one’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Poor mental health of students on college campuses has been on the rise since 2013, and it’s important to know what the major mental health issues affecting college students are, so students can better take care of their own mental health, as well as that of those around them.

3 Major Mental Health Challenges Faced by College Students

1) Depression: Depression is the feeling of sadness for at least a period of two weeks, causing changes in one’s life, such as the lack of interest in daily activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy or concentration, significant weight loss, feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt, and thoughts of suicide. Depression is the most common mental health issue faced by college students and the disorder contains many different branches, such as Major depressive disorder, Persistent depressive disorder, and Seasonal affective disorder, among many others. Some causes of this illness are hormone imbalances, inheritance through genetics, a change of environment that may make you feel uncomfortable, and biological differences in the brain, such as defective neurotransmitters. It’s important to recognize that a person can feel depressed from time to time without having major depressive disorder or any of those associated with it.

How to find help: The Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center at UCLA is a valuable resource when needing a professional to talk to. Students can either walk in or schedule an appointment at CAPS. Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is the most popular method of treatment for depression, which aims to help people understand their illness and to teach them ways to diminish unhealthy thoughts. Medication, such as antidepressants, are also treatment options, when recommended by a medical professional. GRIT Peer-to-Peer Coaching is an on campus resource that provides one-on-one sessions with trained coaches to promote the academic and personal success of students. The Resilience Peer Network (RPN) offers one-on-one help from trained undergraduate counselors through self-guided internet based cognitive behavioral therapy. Other beneficial care options include exercising daily, getting enough sleep, surrounding yourself with supportive family and friends, and tackling large tasks by breaking them down into smaller ones, so that they don’t seem so overwhelming.

2) Anxiety disorders: The definition of anxiety is an emotion described as bringing tension or worried thoughts that are persistent or recurring over a long period of time. These feelings are accompanied by physical changes in the body, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. There are several different forms that are associated with anxiety, including general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Anxiety is the most common psychiatric illness, affecting almost 40 million adults in the U.S.; a large portion of those 40 million are college students. The disorder results from a series of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events (like the possibly stressful transition into college). While many are affected by anxiety disorder, it is important to note that a person that is not diagnosable with an anxiety disorder can also experience feelings of anxiety.

How to find help: A wide variety of therapies have proven to be effective, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy , acceptance and commitment therapy , and dialectical-behavior therapy. Medications are also available, as prescribed by a psychiatrist or other medical professional, to help those with intense or chronic anxiety. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UCLA is a beneficial resource for students to seek professional advice on campus. Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture have also had positive effects on mental health through their release of energy flow, relaxation, lowering heart rates and relieving stress. Check out HCI’s event calendar for dates and times of their drop-in meditations, and look into yoga classes offered at John Wooden Center to experience their benefits.

3) Relationship problems: challenges in romantic partnerships. Some examples are a lack of fairness/equality, not respecting one partner’s feelings, and feeling pressured to change for your partner. Other signs of an unhealthy relationship are a lack of privacy, or physical violence, that begin to negatively affect one’s emotional/mental health and overall wellbeing. It is often seen that college signals the beginning of many students first romantic relationships, or at least their first serious ones, and although these partnerships are thought of as blissful, they can sometimes become unhealthy. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that 35.8% of students visiting their college’s counseling centers were there seeking help for relationship problems that had begun to affect their mental health. Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that can negatively affect mental health, friendships, and family ties can be equally as disruptive if they share the characteristics mentioned above.

How to find help: Along with CAPS, UCLA offers other helpful resources for those seeking help in their personal lives including Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE) which offers counseling and a confidential place to talk for students who have faced domestic violence and/or stalking, or the UCLA offices of Ombuds Services which aims to offer fair and balanced assistance in settling disputes.

There are several different ways to go about treating the aforementioned mental health issues, but every individual is unique and may not respond the same way to certain recommended treatments. It’s good to explore as many of the options as possible to find out what works best for you. Use the symptoms described above, as well as your own research on websites like the American Psychological Association or the National Institute of Mental Health , to help you know what to look out for in your own mental health, as well as your fellow students. Good grades and an active social life may be important aspects of college, but taking care of our mental health is an important aspect of life that will remain with us forever. Are you currently struggling with one of the mental health issues mentioned, or have struggled with one in the past, and feel like sharing your experiences with other students? If so, comment or post online to spread the word about the importance of mental health in college and reach out to others who may be going through similar experiences.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.