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Students’ Mental Health Struggles And Triumphs Showcased In 'Portraits Of Resilience'

In 2011, Caterina Colon says she was coping with the sudden death of her mother while balancing school work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Haley Cope, another MIT student, says when she first came to the school, she was struggling with family issues back home.

These are just two of the 22 stories compiled in new book by MIT professor Daniel Jackson, titled “Portraits of Resilience,” which showcases the struggles and triumphs of people on campus through stories and photographs.

“I thought that if I could make a gallery of faces and stories of people who’d actually experienced depression and anxiety, then people who were suffering could read these stories, look at these faces and realize they were not alone,” Jackson told Jim Braude on Greater Boston.

Jackson said he decided to start project after a string of suicides, including students and a professor, who took their own lives in 2014 and 2015.

Cope said it was around that time when she faced her own difficulties at the school.

“One of the suicides was in my dormitory, and so I witnessed the aftermath of all of that and seeing how crushed everyone around us was. So, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to cause that kind of negative community impact,” she said.

For Colon, who is now a research associate at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, things got so bad, she said, that she took a year off to cope with the stresses of school and loss of her mother.

“It was hard for me to not separate those, and life just became kind of a mess for the first three years there until I was able to get help,” she told Braude.

Colon said she participated in the book because she wanted to show others struggling with depression and anxiety that they are not alone.

A 2017 American College Health Association survey found that nearly 40 percent of college students said they felt so depressed in the prior year it was difficult for them to function, and 61 percent reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety.”

Jackson said his book, thanks to an alumni donation, was given to all incoming students.

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