In an effort to address significant barriers to community-building this semester, Counseling Services has made major changes to their programming. In an email to the Orient, Interim Director of the Counseling and Wellness Services Roland Mendiola discussed the multitude of resources Counseling Services will offer this semester, including mental health classes, workshops, presentations and consults, along with the online counseling and psychiatric sessions that Counseling Services has offered previously.
“[Counseling services is] committed to promoting the psychological health and well-being of the first-year class as well as transfer students at Bowdoin,” Mendiola wrote. “It is critical that we engage these students early and consistently in both formal and informal conversations about their mental, emotional and relational lives, especially within the first couple of months of their transition.”
Mendiola acknowledged that new mental health problems may arise as a result of a more scattered and isolated Bowdoin community. The difficulties some have experienced relative to COVID-19, Mendiola said, include “a heightened sense of disorientation and disorganization due to disrupted or irregular routines; difficulty focusing and staying present; problems with sleep or maintaining a healthy sleep schedule; feelings of loneliness and isolation; general stress and anxiety; strained relationships; tensions in public social settings and increased divisiveness relative to social disparities.”
Mendiola plans for counseling services to take an active stance in helping students through these issues. Offerings will include yoga, mediation, tai chi, group classes and workshops on mental health topics, as well as online group counseling sessions, individual counseling and psychiatric sessions.
He also stressed that students should work consciously to develop routines for themselves that factor in basic needs, such as sleeping and eating, as well as more abstract needs, such as meaningful social engagement.
The Active Minds Club, led by Olivia Groell ’22 and Ridhika Tripathee ’22, is Bowdoin’s chapter of a national organization aiming to end the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage conversation about and awareness of these issues. On a Zoom call with the Orient, the co-leaders discussed what needs to be done to improve mental health in the Bowdoin community.
In discussing the upcoming fall semester, Groell and Tripathee both emphasize the importance of prioritizing mental health alongside COVID-19 prevention.
“I think there are ways for the College to follow these safety measures, but [not] to cause extra difficulty for the student body,” Groell said. “Lots of aspects of the pandemic are very fear-inducing and cause significant stress and anxiety for people. I feel like it’s important to emphasize what students need to do to stay safe but also to emphasize outdoor, socially distanced activities. It’s on the College as well as students to coordinate these types of things, especially for the first years.”