Mental Health Initiative IfYoureReadingThis.Org at VU


Courtesy of Julia Stanisci

IfYoureReadingThis.Org comes to Villanova.

Julia Stanisci, Co-Culture Editor

   On Monday, March 22, the Villanova Chapter of went live with its first student-authored letter. functions to close the gap between students struggling with mental health and the people that care about them by having friends and peers come forward first and share the responsibility of being vulnerable. The website hosts open letters of support from students and faculty to empower students to build or tap into their support networks by identifying the people who understand and want to listen and by erasing the barrier of stigma. Letters are accompanied with a name and a photo so that readers know mental health is a topic we should not be ashamed to speak about and should be diligent in caring for, especially in the face of limited or inaccessible mental health services. was created at the University of Virginia by founder Alexandra Pentel in the fall of 2016. Pentel noticed that social media campaigns, though well-intended, did not do much to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Additionally, students often feel that professional counseling somehow lacks a deeper connection but fear reaching out to their friends, as they are afraid of feeling like a burden. Fearing judgment, this search for support can be discouraging and perpetuates the culture of suffering in silence from mental illnesses. Pentel sought a solution to these problems and came up with, a place where the support comes forward first that meets mental illness with action. It is a place that brings people together beyond a hashtag. Through outreach efforts across the different communities of the university, IfYoureReadingThis aspires to develop the initiative into a sustainable, university-wide support network. 

I founded the Villanova chapter of to advocate for student mental health and empower others to reach out in times of adversity. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the lack of mental health resources on college campuses, I felt that the Villanova community needed an easily accessible mental health resource that projects student voices. After struggling with mental health for many years myself and watching friends and family suffer in silence, I knew IfYoureReadingThis would make a positive impact on Villanova’s campus through erasing the stigma, empowering students to connect with each other and building a better, more open conversation about mental health. 

The first letter is authored by sophomore Dayna Deakin. Deakin heard about IfYoureReadingThis through outreach within Villanova’s Blue Key Society and resonated with the organization’s mission. 

“I really wanted to write a letter because it felt like an amazing opportunity to let others know that they are loved and that it is okay to talk about and be open about struggling with mental health,” Deakin said. “Breaking the stigma is so important and being able to help someone in that process is really important to me.”

Deakin’s letter opens with, “If you’re reading this, you are important,” and goes on to remind students that they are valued, worthy and loved, no matter what their mental illness may try to convince them to believe. 

The hope is that by getting students, faculty and campus leaders to write letters for the site, we address the issue of mental illness on college campuses while bringing the community closer together and showing that these people are people, just like you, and they struggle with the same issues you do. 

To learn more, and for mental health resources, visit To write a letter, visit Contact [email protected] with any questions and follow @ifyourereadingthisnova on Instagram to stay tuned!