Posted by Elena Nogara '16
In this day and age, the topic of mental health is one that is brought up on most college campuses. Whether or not it is dealt with properly is another discussion. As Skidmore College climbs in competitiveness, the stress inflicted on students begins to increase; what can be done about this? Are there enough resources on Skidmore's campus for students to seek help, and how can students learn about them?
As a transfer student from Drexel University, new to the Skidmore community, I have seen many students affected by the difficulties and pressures that come along with the heavy workload in college. Unfortunately, some are affected to the point where they have no more will to fight on. Drexel's neighboring school, the University of Pennsylvania, suffered the painful loss of freshman Madison Holleran, who took her own life in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. While Madison's death shocked friends and family, it immediately caused students in the area to recognize the importance of the care of mental health on college campuses.
Skidmore offers student counseling services, shining a light on mental health, but are we sure that students are aware of this? We do not need a tragic event to happen at Skidmore to realize the importance of mental health care. All students should be knowledgeable of the resources at their disposal, and the school is starting to catch on to this idea.
Active Minds, a non-profit organization that empowers students to speak about mental health, is an excellent provider of information. Just last spring, Skidmore introduced their own chapter to the campus, and immediately started working on making the issue of mental health more well known. The president of the club, Siena Tugendrajch, strongly advocates for mental health awareness, and was able to provide insight on some plans and opinions the group has.
"Last semester, Active Minds actually made flyers for the counseling center precisely because we felt like students didn't know what was available to them." That's one of the ways Tugendrajch has addressed the problem with the lack of knowledge students have about the counseling resources. There is now talk of reusing this idea in the spring term, hoping to make another strong impression on campus.
Another big concern with mental health care on campus is what kind of counseling is offered and to what extent. According to Tugendrajch, "the counseling center does do a pretty solid job of working with people and referring them to outside counselors, but not everyone can afford to see someone outside of Skidmore." This shines a light on a big problem: students with fewer financial possibilities cannot always seek the help they might need. The counseling center also offers group therapy, but it is difficult for students to know how effective these confidential groups are.
In addition, there is controversy on campus about the availability of the counseling center's one psychiatrist. Currently, the psychiatrist is only available once a week, which causes many timing conflicts for students. This is an issue that is being talked about among students, and if spoken about loudly enough, could potentially create change.
What can be done to help solve these problems? Tugendrajch has some ideas of her own that entail the involvement of students on campus. "We could have student-run groups, but people would need to be trained." If these groups were to come to life, it could help students who are not comfortable talking to professionals find a safe haven.
Mental health requires constant dialogue, whether it is among friends, family, or professionals. Without the ability to have an open conversation, students are put in dangerously unhealthy situations . Students are here at Skidmore to enjoy a positive learning experience, not an uncomfortable one. It is important to keep our eyes open to these problems, as they are often veiled in feigned happiness. As students feel the need to hide their pain, they begin to suppress their real emotions, and replace them with "peace of mind." Most people have a much easier time understanding happiness than depression, so it takes a little more concentration to see what is really going on in a person's mind. With that extra focus, we, as a community, can improve the mental well being of students at Skidmore.