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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

At Grinnell, Self-Gov is love, Self-Care is rare

With finals week fast approaching, many students are feeling the pressure that accompanies the end of the semester. This year, several campus groups and resources came together to help Grinnellians cope with their academic stress. After much brainstorming, the result was Self-Care Week, which concluded this afternoon.

Sam Dunnington '14 receives a free back massage from masseur Amy Brown in Smith Gallery over lunch on Thursday - Ben Brewer

“This week incorporated so many different constituencies on campus,” said Andrea Leiser ’11. “It’s about completely taking care of yourself—returning to self in times of stress is an incredibly important thing.”

Over the past four days, different groups have held events under the theme of self-care. Student groups, including Active Minds and the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC), as well as the Hall Wellness Coordinators, played a major part in the program.

College faculty and staff were also involved, with the departments of Athletics, Academic Advising, Student Affairs and Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS) all hosting events throughout the week.

According to Leiser and Dana Bricken ’12, co-leaders of Active Minds, the timing of the week was no mistake.
“This week is supposed to be preventative before you get totally stressed out about finals,” Bricken said.

Stephanie Brown, the new director of SHACS, was a main impetus behind the week.

“I have observed how much our students demand of themselves,” she wrote in an e-mail. “So, I thought that several weeks before exams would be an ideal time for us to create a series of events that encourage active coping, wellness behaviors and that could also, hopefully, help mitigate some of the increasing stress students are experiencing.”

The week kicked off with Active Minds tabling outside of the Dining Hall on Monday to advertise the week and hand out “I am a Resilient Grinnellian” buttons. On Tuesday night, Active Minds hosted the “Six Perspectives on Depression” Panel, which was intended to spread awareness about resources on campus and living with depression.
The panel featured Casie Riney, a worker at the Poweshiek County Mental Health Center, and Harriett Dickey-Chasins ’82, a psychologist at SHACS, as well as four Grinnell students who shared their own experiences with depression. The panelists discussed issues including medication and the stigma associated with depression.

Kelly Nys ’13, who attended the panel, was glad to see attention being brought to how to support friends who may be having difficulties with their mental health.

“It’s very unfortunate that, at Grinnell, we just haven’t had enough conversations [about how to react],” Nys said. “It was really powerful to hear that even if people don’t understand, they can help.”

The Stonewall Resource Center (SRC) was another group invited by SHACS to get involved with the events of Self-Care Week. Wednesday, Dec. 1, was World AIDS Day, for which the SRC distributed free pamphlets and condoms. HIV tests are always available at the Health Center, with fees partly covered by SHACS, but as part of Self-Care Week, the SRC paid the remaining costs to provide 25 free tests.

“We have had a great response to the free HIV testing. … I’m really pleased that we were able to work with the SRC to incorporate World AIDS day into the event,” Brown said. “What they are doing … encourages Grinnell students to take some action on behalf of their own sexual health.”

Also on Wednesday, the SRC sponsored an HIV/AIDS Panel Discussion. The panel consisted of Professor of Biology Gregory Ruthig and Evan Hunsley ’11, who works at the Sexual Health Information Center (SHIC) and has volunteered with AIDS organizations in the past. Discussion was centered on the history of HIV/AIDS and its impact in the US.

Other events throughout the week included a study break thrown by the Hall Wellness Coordinators (HWCs), Academic Advising’s workshop on preparing for finals and “Stretching for Strength,” which was a short demonstration by Volleyball Head Coach Jackie Hutchison on how to use stretches to invigorate the body. On Thursday, SHACS brought massage therapists in from Grinnell Regional Medical Center to give short massages to students.

In the past, the College has often brought in animals to help de-stress students, and Self-Care Week is no exception. There will be a petting zoo today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Lazier Lounge.

Anam Aslam ’14, a member of Active Minds, expressed no reservations about the fact that this event would be held indoors.

“There will be sheep, goats, bunnies [and] probably a chicken,” Aslam said. “They’re friendly—they won’t eat anything!”

Students and staff alike hope that the effects of Self-Care Week will be tangible for students during finals week and beyond.

“I would very much like to make this a tradition at Grinnell,” Brown said. “The purpose is to engage students in activities that will nurture, support and strengthen them, helping them to be more resilient in the face of life’s challenges.”

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