Written by Katie Russell
Published in the November 6, 2015 issue
The Student Wellness Committee, a group of students dedicated to creating positive change in the status and stigma of mental health on campus, plans to pursue its mission during the upcoming school year through connections to alumni groups and the continuation of previous successful projects.
The committee was created in November 2014 by junior Chloe Sørensen, seniors Sarah Reich and Cole McFaul and alumna Rose Weinmann with the primary goal of initiating short-term solutions and programs to improve student wellness in terms of mental health.
McFaul felt that change was necessary in the Gunncommunity’s attitude towards wellness. “There’s a lot of stigma and problems surrounding mental health, awareness and student well-being, so we decided to form this little group of people,” McFaul said.
Sørensen cited McFaul and Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann as instrumental in creating the commit- tee. “[McFaul and I] came up with three solid plans of small projects that we thought could improve student wellness at Gunn,” she said. “We went to Dr. Herrmann and presented our ideas, and she then introduced us to more opportunities for the future.”
According to committee member sophomore Vidhu Navjeevan, the current focus of the committee is a Nov. 24 panel of alumni planned to help current students better understand their possibilities for future after Gunn. “[The alumni] are going to come and talk to current students about the different paths they took, whether that’s college or something else,” Navjeevan said. “We want students to know that Ivy League schools are not the only option.”
The importance of the panel, according to Sørensen, lies in the exposure of students to alumni viewpoints. “[The alumni] want to invite current students, especially people who don’t have older siblings or friends, so people who wouldn’t normally have that perspective,” Sørensen said. “The committee’s role in that is really bridging the gap between alumni and current students.”
Past projects of the Student Wellness Committee include the YES! program, which was recently implemented in all physical education classes, as well as the referral box, which is located in the guidance office and allows students to fill out a form anonymously request- ing that a counselor check in with someone. The referral box is intended for students to have the opportunity to notify counselors if there is a friend or someone on campus that they want to help.
McFaul sees the referral box as an accessible way for students to remain in contact with administration and counseling services while maintaining anonymity. “I definitely recommend going in [and talking to a counselor] personally, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that, it’s important that there is still a way for you or a friend to get help,” he said.
Sørensen says that comfort of students and ease of access to help are the committee’s top priorities. “A lot of kids have friends that they think need help, but they’re too scared to talk to a counselor about it, either because they’re too shy or they’re worried about confidentiality,” Sorensen said. “We wanted to streamline that process and make it a lot easier for people to refer their friends, instead of having to approach a counselor about it.”
McFaul believes that though the referral box may seem like a small change, initiatives do not have to be drastic in order to help foster a more positive community. “All this time and work and effort amounts to something if we help just one person and if just one person is affected by it,”he said. Sørensen has a similar sentiment towards her experience with the committee. “The committee has helped me realize the power of one person or a small group of people to make a huge difference,” she said. “Even just a small difference can really make people’s daily lives better.”
Navjeevan encouraged all members of the community to show their support for the committee’s efforts. “An easy way to get involved is to try to go to our events and support the activities that we do like the referral box, because it’s really important that everyone is cared for,” she said.
Sørensen emphasized her desire for the committee to continue beyond the years she is on campus. “One possibility might be creating a position on the Student Executive Council of a student wellness commissioner, so someone whose job is to coordinate with adminis- tration and student government and continue this committee,” she said.