The transition to college can be stressful, and many students may find that they struggle with their mental health during their adjustment. But from student-led groups to nonprofits and professional campus divisions, there are a variety of resources available on campus for students seeking mental health support.
Associate dean of student support services Anne Hudak said her best piece of advice for freshmen is to always reach out — early and often — for support when they need it. Whether it be from the Undergraduate Deans Office, an undergraduate advisor, the Student Wellness Center or a roommate, taking care of one's mental health should be a priority.
"I think of the Undergraduate Deans Office as a resource students can come to when something just seems off, something just doesn't seem right," Hudak said. "We can talk students through that and suggest some resources they might be able to reach out to."
Another major resource is Dick's House Health Services, which offers short-term individual counseling, group therapy, Dartmouth Cares Suicide Prevention, psychiatric medication evaluations and medication management, ADHD assessments, consultation and referral and nutrition and wellness services.
Dick's House associate director Dr. Alex Lenzen said there are "so many misconceptions" about the Counseling Center at Dick's House, especially around wait times and what students can say without fear of being punished.
Lenzen stressed that Dick's House has a counselor on call 24/7, every day of the year — including holidays.
"I often hear students saying they can't get in for weeks, but the average wait time for a first appointment is two to three days," Lenzen said. "We always have crisis services available, so we have a counselor on call 24/7, every day of the year, holidays, breaks, we're always here. If students need support urgently, they can always come to us, there's not that couple of weeks' wait."
Lenzen noted that many students fear what might happen with the information that they share in the Counseling Center, but their privacy is much more protected than students might realize.
"I think a really big misconception is that if somebody talks about suicidal thoughts or feelings they will be sent home, and that's just not true," Lenzen said. "I would say about 50% of the students we see — and we see about a fourth of the student body — talk about suicidal thoughts and feelings, and we hardly ever send students home without their choice; that happens maybe once every three years."
An investigation into mental health resources on campus by The Dartmouth, released in July, found that the College had made some changes over the course of the pandemic to make care more accessible, including hiring more counselors, but that there are also several major areas for improvement in the school's mental health infrastructure — including mental health leave policy and a lack of long-term care options.
According to Lenzen, Dick's House and the Student Wellness Center are both complementary resources. While Dick's House offers clinical counseling services, the Student Wellness Center offers proactive, preventative wellbeing support.
Student Wellness Center director Caitlin Barthelmes emphasized the importance of early intervention, noting a general tendency to wait until stress, anxiety and other unpleasant emotions build up and cause barriers to students' productivity and mental health.
"If we wait until that boilover point, it may involve needing a higher level of professional support" said Barthelemes. "Whereas, if we're able to create a daily practice of pausing to check in with ourselves and how we're feeling, it allows for an increase in our ability to know ourselves and to take action to improve our emotional health."
According to Barthelmes, the mission of the SWC is to "empower the student community to thrive while at the College and beyond." Barthelmes identified four evidence-based processes that can help students: self-reflection, connection with others, intention and commitment and drawing on values to inform actions
One of the SWC's goals for this year, Barthelmes said, is to "focus on normalizing tending to mental and emotional health as a daily practice in the student community."
Well-being and mindfulness specialist Laura White said that the SWC will continue their weekly, free-flowing mindfulness drop-ins this fall to encourage this practice. Mindfulness drop-ins are open to all undergraduates to come and go as they please, as well as another four-week, free Koru mindfulness course that will take place in a group cohort and meet once a week.
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