COPE Sets the Record Straight

Members of COPE

Recently a student-run Instagram account called Erase the Stigma at Holy Cross was created with the intention of providing a platform for students to anonymously share their experiences with mental illness. Consequently, in an early February issue of The Spire, an article of the same name was written to address the mental health stigma that exists at Holy Cross. However, this article included misinformation and inaccuracies regarding the mental health initiatives and resources available on campus, therefore misleading students as to the hope and help that is available to them. Specifically, this article failed to cite the extensive work being done by both students and professionals on campus to reduce mental health stigma. COPE wants to establish that students’ struggles with mental health at Holy Cross are not being “grossly ignored” as the aforementioned article wrongly suggests. COPE and the Counseling Center continually work to effectively address mental health on campus and offer support and help to those who are struggling.

COPE (Counseling Outreach Peer Educators) is an organization on campus that works to facilitate a strong connection between the Counseling Center and Holy Cross students through outreach programs designed to increase student awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. As peer educators, we receive specialized training to provide mental health education and resources, and promote emotional well-being on campus. Although we do not engage in peer counseling, we are a referral source for students who are struggling with mental illness and seeking assistance and advice. Throughout the year, COPE hosts a number of events focused on enhancing the quality of mental health in the student body. Specifically, from April 8-11 COPE Well Week will be taking place. During that week we will be holding events including Paint Night, Yoga, COPE’s annual Luminary event (featuring a student speaker in addition to guest speaker Leah Nelson), and an evening event with guest speaker Ivy Watts, who will speak about her struggles with mental illness as a former student athlete. COPE continually works hard to create effective programming that addresses the needs of the Holy Cross student body and opens up the conversation about mental health. However, COPE is incredibly open to feedback and suggestions from students about mental health events and initiatives on campus so that we can continue to productively and effectively meet students’ needs. Please do not hesitate to contact a COPE member to engage in such discussions.

Regarding the Instagram account itself, we believe that reducing the mental health stigma on campus and opening up these important conversations is a fantastic initial idea that demonstrates the desire for change on campus.  However, the Instagram account was created without any consultation of COPE or the Counseling Center, and despite making moves to change the campus climate in terms of mental health, it does not provide accurate or comprehensive resources, and has become a place of negativity. As a result, COPE has been working to develop programming that reduces stigma in a way that promotes hope and help-seeking behaviors among students. During COPE Well Week, we will be creating a new stigma-reducing initiative, a display that will feature anonymous stories from peer educators and student leaders on campus depicting their past or current struggles with mental health, and pieces of advice or hope that they would like to share with students who might be dealing with similar struggles. This display will be featured in Hogan 1 as well as other academic buildings on campus.

For students who are struggling with mental illness, hope and help are available to you! You are not alone in your struggles, and recovery is possible. Remember, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”-Aristotle. Please be sure to follow @HolyCrossCOPE on Facebook for information about on-and off-campus resources, and mental health tips and advice. The College of the Holy Cross Counseling Center offers a variety of confidential services with the aim of meeting the mental health needs of students and promoting their academic success and personal growth. Clinicians are available to help students address a variety of concerns, including stress, anxiety, homesickness, and many more. These include consultations if you wish to discuss helping someone who you know is struggling. If you or someone you know is struggling, appointments can be made by calling (508-793-3363) or visiting the Counseling Center (Hogan 207). Urgent Care hours (Monday- Friday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) are available for students needing to be seen the same day. For psychological crises that occur after hours when the Counseling Center is closed, an on-call crisis counselor via Protocol can be reached by calling the Counseling Center (508-793-3363) and following the prompts. For psychological emergencies at any time, please contact Public Safety at (508)793-2222 or call 911. For more information about on-and-off campus resources please go to https://www.holycross.edu/health-wellness-and-access/counseling-center.

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