By Virginia Johnston
The arrival of midterm week has sent many students into a frenzy of last-minute studying and rapid coffee intake. Stress levels are soaring, but fortunately, help is available. Whether it is pressure from exams or from a source outside of academics, Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) offers help to all students struggling to stay mentally healthy.
“Students are welcome to reach out to us any time,” said Lauren Folloni, Director of Advising and Counseling, during a joint interview with Maura Weir, Coordinator of Recovery and Wellness. They are the main support available to students on campus. Scheduling an appointment by email is their preferred method of contact but stopping by their office in Grossman Commons Room 206A is always an option.
Folloni speculates that one reason students may be reluctant to ask for help is because they worry about their privacy. She says students may not want their teachers or peers knowing that they need help handling their lives. This stems from the toxic stigma surrounding mental health. Folloni reassures that reaching out is not a bad thing, and there are ways to stay anonymous.
For example, the Stress and Depression Questionnaire available for free on the website is an anonymous resource that allows any student to examine how stress or depression is affecting their life. It is an opportunity to talk with a staff member who knows how to help. All responses are personal, and the student is not required to reveal their identity.
“I think the stigma comes from people not understanding what it means to live with a mental illness,” said Weir. She adds that sometimes asking for help is portrayed as a sign of weakness, but in reality, it’s a sign of strength. Folloni and Weir emphasized that part of their job is to be nonjudgmental throughout the process.
These are just two of the twelve specially trained staff members that make up the Crisis and Life Management (CALM) Team. The focus of this behavioral intervention team is “to make sure that students who are in need aren’t unnoticed,” said Folloni. As the “eyes and ears” of campus, the CALM Team responds in crisis situations in an approachable and comfortable manner.
When dealing with mental health, Folloni and Weir are concentrated on getting to know the needs of the student body. The Healthy Minds Survey emailed to each student is a part of this process. By filling it out, the college will have a better idea of the specific services students require. The questions can be completed until Friday, March 8th.
“The more students who fill out that survey, the better off we’ll be,” said Folloni.
Weir added, “It’s going to inform the work that we do.”
The top concerns that Folloni and Weir deal with currently are stress, depression, and anxiety. Folloni points out that this is consistent throughout colleges in America, but as a smaller college, a full-time counselor isn’t available on campus. This means that part of the job for Folloni and Weir is to refer students to resources off campus and closer to home. Whatever a student may face, asking for help is always the first step.
Weir is also the advisor to the student-run Active Minds Club, which is all about mental health awareness. The club hosted events for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and National Self-Harm Awareness Day in the cafeteria on February 26th and 27th. Free snacks and giveaways drew in students who may have otherwise not even considered reaching out. These events promoted the range of help that 4Cs offers to students.
Another resource is Students Achieving Recovery Together (START), which allows for peer support around the topic of addiction and recovery. This student club meets every Wednesday from 2:00-3:00PM in North 107.
“I really feel strongly that every member of this community – faculty, staff, administrators, all the way up to President Cox – cares. Everybody’s paying attention, everybody is acknowledging that there is a need and that we want to be supportive of all our students’ needs,” Folloni said. “If I could say one thing, that would be it: we care.”