Chronic Illness Support Group for Students
Sponsored by Skidmore’s Peer Health Education Program, Isabella Ragonese ’17 and Julia Rinaolo ’19 lead a Chronic Illness Support Group that plans to meet monthly with students who are dealing with (or have a loved one dealing with) a chronic illness. This support group intends to be a safe space for students to discuss their illnesses, connect with students facing similar experiences and navigate what resources are available within the Skidmore community.
Isabella explained, “When I was a freshman, I was struggling a lot with my chronic illness and it was hard to not feel alone in that. Transitioning to college is hard enough. If there was a group of people dealing with similar things that I could talk to, it would have been nicer.”
Peer Health Educators help students navigate on- and off-campus resources related to any health topic. They also comprise of specific committees dedicated to big events and outreach, as well as specific topics such as mental, sexual and other health-related concerns. Isabella comments, “You can’t serve on [a committee] and feel like you aren’t making an impact. Even if you just reach two or three people and make their lives better, that’s doing something.”
Chronic illnesses encompass both physical and mental health issues. Both Julia and Isabella hope to see a broad spectrum of these issues represented during the upcoming support group meetings. Something that Isabella has found helpful is seeing the parallels between each other’s experiences and relating to each other on the challenges of going through these issues within a college setting. No matter the illness, Isabella acknowledges that many of the frustrations are similar.
Last semester, their meetings focused mainly on debriefing and discussing personal journeys. Generally, this has fostered a positive and comfortable setting for discussion. Isabella and Julia hope to continue this while also integrating more stress-relieving activities, such as mural coloring during the meetings.
Depending on group interest, they are hoping to host guests, such as representatives from the Skidmore’s Counseling Center, to shed light on available student resources. They are also considering participating in walks to raise money for chronic illnesses if there is enough interest. Primarily, Isabella and Julia want to promote a safe and open community for students dealing with chronic illnesses, providing necessary resources and connecting students who are facing similar experiences while at Skidmore. They hope these students will feel like they are not alone.
Isabella mentioned, “You have to be your own advocate. Not being afraid to do that is important and I recognize that it is super difficult, so as a Peer Health Educators, we are here to bridge the gap. We are peers but we can connect students to some [helpful resources].”
Their first meeting of the semester is on Thursday, Feb. 9th, 8:30-9:30pm, in the Intercultural Center (ICC) located on the second floor of Case. Snacks will be provided. For more information regarding the Chronic Illness Support Group, reach out to Julia Rinaolo (email@example.com) or Isabella Ragonese (firstname.lastname@example.org).