On Monday, Oct. 3, the College Government Senate focused on mental health during its weekly meeting. The College Government President (CGP), Zainab Younus ’17, who helps determine the agenda of each Senate meeting, ran for her position on a platform focused on mental health last semester.
“When I was running for CG[P], I advocated for bringing together different parties, like students, faculty and administrators, to discuss how we can better work towards alleviating academic stress at Wellesley,” Younus said in an interview with The Wellesley News last year.
In that interview, Younus also expressed a desire to create an ad hoc committee on campus mental health resources that would work with the Mental Health Educators (MHEs) and refers to its parent organization, Active Minds, to present the student body’s feedback to Wellesley College President Paula Johnson. She believes that Wellesley’s current resources are strong but need to be made more accessible to students.
The mental health session began with an informational presentation by Executive Senator Jordan Dervishian ’19 and Active Minds member Silpa Karipineni ’18 about the MHEs and Active Minds. The presenters explained the role of MHEs, Stone Center-trained students in most Wellesley dormitories who serve as a local resource for those with queries about mental health. MHEs are part of the Active Minds student organization and are a part of the greater Peer Health Network at Wellesley, which in- cludes the Sexual Health Educators (SHEs) and the Balance Health Educators (BHEs). The presenters encouraged Senators to tell their constituents to use the MHEs, who serve as a link between the student community and campus mental health resources.
The MHEs hosted an Ask Me Anything session. They discussed the Stone Center, which is Wellesley College’s institutional mental health resource. They highlighted Ac- tive Minds’ Oct. 3 celebration of National Day Without Stigma, which the organization commemorated with representatives in the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center and pos- itive notes of love written on hearts and public posters pledging to fight mental health stigma. They also discussed Active Minds’ annual celebration of the fall Love Your Body Week and spring Stress Less Week.
Senate divided into groups to discuss mental health resource improvements on campus before reporting the results to the entire body. Active Minds is working on getting an MHE in every residence hall to improve their visibility on campus; it was also suggested that SHEs and MHEs attend all-hall meetings. Senate focused on developing a flow chart of mental health resources and reminding Resident Assistants (RAs) of precise confidentiality details and MHEs.
Many suggestions were made for increasing the Stone Center’s presence through hiring student workers for the front desk, employing more people of color and improving staffing overall, online scheduling, better dissemination of group therapy session information and putting names to faces. Senators also broached increased language sensitivity around mental health for professors and organization presidents in particular, particularly the stigma sometimes associated with taking a “mental health day” and not working. Finally, some took an idea from peer institutions and assign counselors to residence halls and host dinners with counselors.
Soobean Jo ’17, a College Government Senator from The Korean Student Organization (KSA) who attended last Monday’s meeting, believes the Stone Center has room for growth. “
There can be more improvements in the visibility of the different events and resources at the Stone Center. One thing my group proposed was having an online google form to schedule appointments with specific counselors. This would allow for more structure and formality, as the only option to schedule an appointment is through phone, though walk-ins are accepted,” Jo elaborated. She added that the center’s recent appointment of an Asian-American counselor should be publicized more, along with the profiles of the other counselors.
Pomeroy Executive Senator Katelyn Campbell ’17 also attended the meeting. As a member of a College Government ad hoc committee, she worked with the Stone Center; she praised the institution for being “more than receptive to our comments and have demonstrated nothing but deep care for students and their individual needs.” She reports having similar experiences with Wellesley College Health Services.
However, Campbell does have questions about how the College funds its mental health resources. “There are bigger questions to ask about why the College has not allocated substantially more funding for their space and services,” Campbell wrote.
The conversation on mental health continued at this Monday’s Senate meeting with a presentation by Cook-Nobles and Jan Park on the Stone Counseling Center’s resources and plans for reaching out to students. The presenters highlighted the fact that all Student Leaders are trained on mental health issues and are valuable first resources. The Stone Center wishes to have its staff invited to tea times and lunches across campus, address urgent student needs and seek more effective communication methods with the residence halls.
The presenters responded to Senate concerns about diversity and relatability at the Stone Center. The center has training programs for all counselors on cultural competency and has current staff, graduate student and intern listings on its website. The Stone Center acknowledged the difficulty of students in securing nonurgent appointments during midterms, a period of high academic stress that does not mix well with understaffing. The presenters also highlighted methods of increasing the center’s online flexibility through solutions like installing a format similar to Handshake and the Writing Tutor system, creating a Facebook page and resolving confidentiality problems with a database in which students are identified by their ID numbers rather than their names.