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USG moving forward with potential Headspace partnership

In September, Ohio State released recommendations for improvements to the university’s mental health resources, including a push for apps that help students cope with stress. Now the Undergraduate Student Government is pushing for a partnership with Headspace.

Headspace is a guided meditation app that explores the bond between mental strength and wellness to help people deal with stress or crisis.

Headspace has a student subscription deal that is $10 per year, but USG Vice President Shawn Semmler said USG is hoping to partner with Headspace, so it can be more accessible to all Ohio State students.

Semmler said one of the reasons Headspace stood out to USG was its ability to handle an institution as big as Ohio State.

“They’ve had partnerships with LinkedIn and Google [so] they can definitely handle a unit of our size, and they can really help us raise our emotional IQ on campus,” Semmler said. “They have a whole enterprise unit of their company that is equipped to handle a school and an institution as big as Ohio State, whereas others might not have.”

Another selling point, Semmler said, was the ongoing internal research going into Headspace, which added data to the science of why the app works.

Will Sullivan, USG representative for the Health and Safety Committee, said he has been using Headspace for more than a year and has found it to be a great tool to cope with his own mental illnesses.

Will Sullivan, USG representative for the Health and Safety Committee, has been using Headspace to cope with his own mental illnesses. Credit: Courtesy of Will Sullivan

“Headspace has put me on a regimen where every day around 11:48 a.m. I get a reminder to meditate and utilize Headspace and it has set me on a very strict schedule of when I meditate,” he said.

Sullivan said that Headspace provides several different meditation programs that focus on topics ranging from sleeping better or managing stress to dealing with anxiety, depression or other serious mental illnesses. Each program lasts 30 days and teaches a different coping technique through interactive meditation.

Headspace, according to Sullivan, gives students a chance to choose what they want to focus on, which lets them recognize what they need help with as well as giving them resources and techniques to battle whatever is going on in their life.

“I think that Headspace just acts as a door to open up people’s minds and the opportunities that are available to taking care of yourself,” Sullivan said. “To a lot of people, they just see it as a meditation app but you’re gaining the skills you can utilize in your everyday life to help you further on taking care of yourself that lasts way longer than just 10 [or] 15 minutes that you have within meditation.”

Sullivan said he is trying to fight the stigma of meditation being an ancient practice that isn’t for everyone. Headspace has made it a personable, modernized practice that Sullivan feels every student could benefit from.

“I think those that are really in need of help need to be pushed out of their comfort zone a little bit besides the traditional ways of gaining help or therapy or medication,” he said.

While USG and Headspace haven’t finalized a deal yet, USG President Shamina Merchant said she is hopeful that Headspace will help shift the conversation of mental health and mental wellness on campus.

“I think it will help embrace the message that everyone needs to take care of themselves and their mental wellness overall is important,” Merchant said. “It shouldn’t just be in times of crisis but recognizing students at different points in their journey and giving them access to a portfolio of resources that will help them take care of their mental health.”

While there is no definitive timeline for if or when the partnership with Headspace will take place, Merchant said this is part of a larger initiative of students coming together to figure out exactly how they can proactively be more supportive of their peers.

Correction, 10/25 at 3:42 p.m.: a previous version of this article stated USG is hoping to partner with Headspace, so it can be free to all Ohio State students. In fact, they will be trying to just make it more accessible.

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