By Grace Gottschling
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Mark Forest visited Student Government during its meeting on Feb. 7 to speak about the College’s mental health services. SG also voted to approve two new clubs, Dancers of NJ and the Japanese Student Association.
Forest began the meeting with a presentation documenting the recent efforts the Office of Health and Wellness is taking, including the Alcohol and Drug Education Program, Student Health Services and Anti-Violence Initiatives.
Health and Wellness has increased its staff by more than 50 percent since the fall of 2014, and has enhanced referral capabilities for long-term treatment options, according to Forest.
Forest reviewed the College’s mental health statistics in relation to the national average. Currently, the College matches the national average in regards to students experiencing serious considerations of suicide, at 8.6 percent.
Students at the College who experience depression match the national average at 32.8 percent. The rate of students at the College with chronic anxiety is 56.4 percent, which is more than two percent higher than the national average.
Forest also discussed the Center for Integrated Health, Education and Learning, the College’s new clinic. While the clinic is not yet accepting new students into the treatment program, the clinic’s staff is currently working with students who have been waitlisted. They are expecting to double the amount of students accepted as patients in the next academic year.
Health and Wellness has adopted a “holistic model,” which emphasizes aspects of healthy living such as yoga and meditation.
“When stigma goes down, demand goes up,” Forest said. “I believe stigma has gone down in our culture.”
Forest also wants students to feel comfortable reaching out for assistance, rather than allowing feelings of anxiety or depression to accumulate.
“We don’t want people to wait until they’re in crisis to seek help,” Forest said. “It’s much easier to build resilience for when those issues arise.”
CAPS does not limit student access to long-term mental healthcare. Rather, it stylizes care plans depending on individual needs. Clinicians never turn away a student in need of mental health services, but will often recommend off-campus services if a student’s needs warrant the extra care, according to Forest.
SG voted to officially recognize Dancers of NJ and the Japanese Student Association as campus organizations.
Dancers of NJ proposed their club as “laid back with a less competitive setting,” which differs from other dance clubs on campus.
Dancers of NJ is not audition based, and will host dance lessons featuring multiple styles and techniques. The group is also planning on hosting dance-related events twice per semester.
The Japanese Student Association, which strives to provide students with a better understanding of Japanese and Asian-American culture, had already been operating unofficially for several semesters. After attracting more than 40 members, the organization decided to seek official recognition.