The Changing Face of Mental Health on Campus

It’s that time of year again. The air is warm and the dimple has sprouted back its annual coat of green, ready for the last few weeks of the semester. For many, the yearly toll of seasonal depression is beginning to wane. I know that I, among many others are particularly glad that this year’s winter was not as bad as last’s. So far as I can tell, and I’m no weatherman, there are no forecasts for snowfall in April.

The reason why I mention this is because last year was particularly rough for me, and while I was lucky enough to have a good network of friends and resources during some of my worst days, many do not. As such, I wanted to take some time to write on the subject and focus on what the school body is doing to help. If any of you consistently read my articles you will know that I am often cynical, or at least critical about many issues that I care about. However, this week I want to try something different by focusing on the good. That is not to say that more critical analysis is out of the question, merely that the focus of this article is about what is being done, not what is lacking.

Much of this article is in praise of WheaGo, a club started this year which aims to provide Uber and Lyft gift cards to students seeking long-term treatment for mental health and sexual violence recovery services that are outside of the short-care options that the Wheaton Counseling Center offers. For many students, transportation is the biggest hindrance to seeking treatment. When one is already suffering from anxiety and depression, the prospect of having to push yourself even further can be devastating. Special mention needs to go to Amber-Marie Wright ‘20, who has been spearheading the WheaGo effort. Wright launched a petition to bring President Hanno’s attention to the project. As of writing this, the petition has gained 374 signatures and 15 student testimonials. School administrators and SGA have been in conversation with WheaGo about implementing the club’s ideas. This is an ongoing process, however, the prospects seem good. WheaGo has secured access to long-term funding and is actively working with SGA.

At this point in time, most of Wheaton’s mental health services are functional. They are a needed safety net for many but are just that, a safety net. Even if they have stopped you from falling, there is still the issue of stumbling around and trying to find your footing. Short-term counseling is often like a bandage on a bullet wound. It takes time and effort to heal fully and that is often the hardest part. Wheaton College has expressed its mission to help students become fully realized adults ready for the world. This includes support for those dealing with mental illnesses that undermine their ability to act as adults. Anxiety and depression are unfortunately common symptoms of college life. The least the college can do is make the experience more bearable for students.

The second thing I find important is that they maintain anonymity for those using their services. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health in the United States, and for many, being known by an illness can be nearly as bad as the disease itself. Even going to seek counseling can seem like a failure of stoicism. Admitting that you need help can feel like it is inconveniencing others. For those readers, I’d like to say that there is no shame in mental illness, nor in asking for help. I would likely not be writing this if it hadn’t been for the Counseling Center, which employs people who do want to be ‘inconvenienced’ by your troubles.

Those who have mental illnesses often suffer in the dark. That is why it is our duty to allow spaces and resources for those who have difficulty doing so on their own. WheaGo is an incredibly important initiative but it is also just the start of what can be done. It may be spring, but there are still finals, and more winters to come. So let’s do our best to help. If you need to talk to anyone, you can reach the Counseling Center at 508-286-3905, or (508) 286-3333 for emergency help from Public Safety.