Nathan Howard ’25
On Thursday, Dec. 2, Michele Murray, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, held a communicative forum that allowed for faculty, staff, and students to connect and inform one another about mental health and stress reduction exercises. Staff members Paul Galvinhill and Adriana DiPasquale, from the College’s Counseling Center, as well as Liz Drexler-Hines, from Student Wellness Education were in attendance to share their expertise on these subjects.
Paul Galvinhill began the discussion by explaining what he has seen throughout this semester relating to mental health. Mr. Galvinhill asserted that there has been a higher number of students utilizing the Counseling Center’s services through the end of November than in previous years. Specifically, last year, 21% of students utilized the Counseling Center’s Services while this year, that number has already increased to 23%. Mr. Galvinhill also expressed the belief that this number may continue to increase as the year progresses. Furthermore, he explained that “Seeing record numbers presents both a positive and negative reaction from our staff. The positive is that students are seeking the help that they need but an increase in students utilizing our services also means an increase in anxiety and depression on our campus.”
Adriana DiPasquale continued this discussion by explaining the different reasons why students may seek guidance and help from the College’s Counseling Center. The most primary reason was stress, from both academic work and impacts by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the Counseling Center believes that anxiety and depression have formed from the fluctuation of pandemic restrictions as well as possible unmet expectations from an in-person semester. Ms. DiPasquale also explained that students who have suffered from discrimination or assault have utilized the Counseling Center’s resources. Specifically, Ms. DiPasquale stated that “While there are a small number of students who have experienced this in recent months, the impact is ultimately very large.” Ms. DiPasquale then connected this to the ongoing anxiety provoked by national political issues and stressful circumstances throughout the nation and the world. Both Mr. Galvinhill and Ms. DiPasquale provided a list of coping strategies when dealing with reactions to stressful or traumatic events and news.
In concluding the Counseling Center’s portion of the forum, Mr. Galvinhill reminded his audience that “Mental health has been prioritized on this campus, and will continue to be as it is so important for the success of our students.” While the Counseling Center anticipates that the higher number of students utilizing their services will remain, Mr. Galvinhill asserted that they are well staffed and accessible to anyone who may need their assistance in the future.
Liz Drexler-Hines continued the December Forum by providing the students, staff, and faculty present with two important exercises to release possible stress. Ms. Drexler-Hines asserted that “We have the tools within ourselves” to combat overwhelming stress. Specifically, Ms. Drexler-Hines introduced “mindfulness” and “self-compassion” exercises as two ways to achieve stress relief. After the completion of both exercises, Dean Murray asserted that she felt “much more relaxed both physically and mentally.”
At the conclusion of the forum, Dean Murray thanked the students who attended, as well as Paul Galvinhill, Adriana DiPasquale, and Liz Drexler-Hines for their help in orchestrating the event and sharing their expertise regarding mental health and student wellness.