The success of last fall's Mental Health Check-in aimed at helping students cope with stress, particularly the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, prompted the College to take the Student Government Association's idea further. This semester the College brings Mental Health Week through April 2.
“The student response that we got to that was overwhelming, to be honest,” Shawn Bryant, who is the secretary and treasurer for the SGA, said of that one-time Zoom event. “We knew we had to do something similar this semester.”
That hourlong event began with Richard Hurst, from the College’s Disability Support Services, providing resources for mental health, and ended with professor Amy Anderson leading a relaxation exercise.
“Through the rest of the hour, we just had room for the students to talk, basically, about what was going on in their lives, what was stressing them, how tough it was for them to complete their schoolwork and succeed in courses,” Bryant said.
When the College held a few other events last semester, the average turnout was about three people, said Bryant. For the Mental Health Check-in, it was close to 20.
“(That) doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is, relatively, compared to our other events,” he said. “It was dramatic.”
In addition, about 80 students responded to a care package that was sent out to those on the event’s registration list.
“It was really amazing to see that kind of response,” Bryant said. “We got a bunch of emails afterward, where people were telling us it was meaningful, that they were happy for the resource information, for the open nonjudgmental conversation.”
He added it means a lot to the students that the College is talking about mental health in any kind of way. And in part because of that support, Bryant and Amanda DiMartino, senate speaker, decided on a weeklong event this year.
“We decided we wanted to go for broke,” he said.
At last semester’s session, students were concerned about a variety of things. Many were and still are trying to juggle work and school and illness. However, coping with the pandemic was a major topic.
“Some people had issues with Covid-19 in their family, and they were just overwhelmed,” Bryant said. “They’re really crying out for this kind of thing.”
“We’ve had a lot of response from students collaborating with faculty and with one another to plan the event. We have a pretty good size group working on this,” said Kadisia Archer, Director of Student Activities.
Hurst said the more students involved the better.
“Peer support is huge in just bringing them forward to get support,” he said. “Sometimes students are hesitant to step forward and ask for help because there’s a stigma in society, so we are trying to reduce that stigma.”
Added Archer: “It seems like a lot of the students have been really stressed out so we’re hoping these workshops will provide a pathway for them to help themselves, to make it through the stresses of the pandemic. Hopefully, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Dr. Patrick Smith, a psychology professor, also is involved. In an email to the College faculty, staff, and students, he wrote: “Our goal is to allow multiple ways for students to connect meaningfully with each other and faculty over the course of the week.”
The schedule (with each session's Zoom link)
Monday, March 29
“Welcome Event: Resources to Adapt & Thrive,” hosted by SGA, 1 p.m.
“Yoga Nidra Guided Meditation,” hosted by Amy Anderson, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 30
“Acknowledging Racist Violence,” hosted by Jarel White, 1 p.m.
“Stress Less Game Night,” hosted by Active Minds, 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 31
“Intersections: LGBTQ+ and Mental Health,” hosted by Shawn Bryant, 11 a.m.
“How to Make a Vision Board,” hosted by Brianna Ruff, noon. (This will be a live instructional session. To get the most out of this event, please bring the materials listed here: vision board materials list)
“Grief, Loss, and Abandonment,” hosted by Keisha Samuels, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 1
“Mindful and Healthy Eating,” hosted by Holly Herrick, 10:30 a.m.
“Journaling: A Safe Space for the Healing Journey,” hosted by Marian Clifton, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, April 2
“The Power of Planning Life Events,” hosted by Alicia Riley, 1 p.m.
“Social Justice and Equality,” hosted by Paul Tessier, 4:30 p.m.