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The Scarlet & Black

College faces ongoing health services challenges

Students represent their wellness organizations at the fair. Photo by Mahira Faran.

This past Tuesday, Feb. 20, Grinnell College held its 10th Annual Student Wellness fair. The fair provides an opportunity for campus resources, such as departments, offices and student groups, to publicize what they have to offer the student body. These resources for wellness range from academic advising, to physical and mental health, to identity support groups.

Additionally, community resources, such as the Grinnell Regional Medical Center, were present at the fair. Having community resources present reminds students that opportunities for wellness extend beyond the campus.

“[The resources offered] are meant to remind them that it’s important to take care of yourself before the semester gets too far into it and you get too busy with work,” said Connie Herchek, administrative support assistant for student affairs. “I think it’s good to just be reminded of what [resources] are out there. I think at Grinnell there’s so many different resources that sometimes we forget about the ones we need, because there’s so many different opportunities to do things or go places.”

There is no budget exclusively for the Wellness Fair. Each group and organization in attendance uses their own budget to supply necessary items. If in need of funding, student organizations go through the Student Government Association, as they would with any other event. Organizations such as SHACS or the Wellness Lounge have their own budgets for this event and allocate any needed money out of their regular funding.

Along with making resources known to students, SHACS has recently expanded their services to include a male identity support group and have a counselor on site at the athletic facilities.

“We have more mental health resources than ever before,” said Jen Jacobsen, director of wellness and prevention. Currently, SHACS has full time and part time counselors, a partnership with the University of Iowa where doctoral student serve as a resource and counselors from a Masters of Social Work practicum.

“The number of hours they’re providing this year is more than ever before,” Jacobsen said.

However, despite events such as the Wellness Fair that publicize resources and resource expansions, some students feel that the resources at Grinnell College are not sufficient, especially in the realm of mental health.

Students represent their wellness organizations at the fair. Photo by Mahira Faran.

One solution to addressing this problem is the implementation of a Student Mental Health task force.

“Its purpose is to ask the questions and assess what are our needs, what are our recommendations so that the college can move forward in a strategic way,” Jacobsen said.

Two weeks ago, in part of this strategic move forward, external reviewers from the directors of counseling from Hamilton and Knox Colleges visited Grinnell College. They met with different groups and organizations to get feedback and assess the adequacy of the resources Grinnell College has to offer.

As the external reviewers come from small, rural, liberal arts colleges, their perspective allows them to better understand the needs that students at Grinnell College have and utilize related work on their respective campuses.

“It creates some objectivity in making their recommendations,” Jacobsen said.

After completing the report, the external reviewers will summarize their findings and give recommendations of what still needs to be addressed to President Raynard Kington, Mike Latham, dean of the College and Angela Voos, vice president for strategic planning. Both Latham and Voos are co-chairs of the task force.

“I think we’re at a really exciting time that there’s an investment in that task force to make recommendations to where our greatest needs are,” Jacobsen said.

Additionally, the National College Health Assessment was recently sent out to students over email. This assessment is important as it tells groups, such as the task force, how students are doing and what is and is not being addressed.

“[The National College Health Assessment] informs a lot of the work that we do,” Herchek said. “It has a huge impact on our work and the resources that we’re able to advocate for, whether it’s additional staff or additional programing or funds.’

The National College Health Assessment is open until March 5. Jacobsen urges that all students take the assessment so that resources, especially for mental health, can be addressed and further improved.

Jacobsen has ideas that she would like to see addressed to better mental health.

“When I think about the mental health promotion side, I think about ‘how do we create an environment that both promotes mental health and supports help seeking behaviors?’” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen believes that the college environment needs to be changed so that students are more able to make decisions that promote positive mental health. Such environmental changes could be in the classroom, such as having more detailed syllabi from professors, or at the institutional level, such as implementing a breakfast on Sunday mornings at the Dining Hall.

“I want us to think more about how we incentivize the behaviors that are helpful and support the students and make it easier for students to make those choices,” Jacobsen said.

While resources for mental health at Grinnell College may not have reached their potential, the College is attempting to address these issues and make the necessary changes to improve mental health at Grinnell College.

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    Tim ButterfieldMar 4, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    “Its purpose is to ask the questions and asses what are our needs, what are our recommendations so that the college can move forward in a strategic way,” Jacobsen said.”

    “They met with different groups and organizations to get feedback and asses the adequacy of the resources Grinnell College has to offer.”