By: Damon Markiewicz
In another example of the Springfield College commitment to mental health awareness and support for the entire campus community, the launch of Campus Cares was officially unveiled on Thursday, January 11, 2024. The inaugural cohort of more than 25 employees took part in a two-hour foundational training session designed for faculty and staff to better understand and respond to the mental health needs of students and colleagues.
Built upon the success of the Pride Cares peer-to-peer mental health support program for students, Campus Cares participants better understand the importance of their role(s) on campus; they learned about the mental health challenges faced by Springfield College students; the cohort addressed barriers to being available and an advocate for others; and attendees developed skills to better respond to students and colleagues.
“Campus Cares was a natural next step as we have successfully run the Pride Cares program for the past several years,” said Lauren Gray, Springfield College Counseling Center Assistant Director for Outreach and Prevention. “We have had many faculty and staff members ask for their own training in order to support each other and our students as psychological health remains on the forefront of student needs.”
The inaugural training session was led by Gray, along with Director of Health Promotion Christine Johnston, Exercise Science Assistant Professor Adam Feit, and Director of The Wellness Institute Devan Musa. As a follow-up to the initial training, attendees are strongly recommended to take part in one-hour trainings throughout the academic year on a variety of specialized topics.
“As we explore our resources in Pride Cares, as leaders, we also see that many of our students naturally see their professors, coaches, and advisors, as outlets for them,” added Gray. “We recognize that these individuals likely hold the skills to be a resource, and Campus Cares helps to refine these skills. What we hope to do on this campus is to normalize distress rather than pathologize it. We are opening up dialogue and normalizing conversations that were previously felt to be off limits or beyond the academic scope.”
Similar to Pride Cares, one of the Campus Cares mission statements is to address concerns before they impact the students’ ability to function throughout the semester. These skills are also transferrable to faculty and staff opening up dialogue among each other to model and expand the network of support at Springfield College.
In a national sample of college students, 78% have indicated serious psychological distress, and between 65-70% of students have indicated they felt a lack of companionship and felt isolated from others. In comparison, statistics gathered representing Springfield College students showed that 54% have indicated a lack of companionship, 60% have felt left out, and 53% have felt isolated from others.
"As we become more attuned to the impact of mental health in our College community, we must develop the confidence and competence to help support our students and colleagues,” explained Feit. “Campus Cares will bridge the gap in mental health support for all members of the College. We are excited for the future, and can't wait for what lies ahead.”
As a result of the overflowing interest from employees to be a part of Campus Cares, there are plans to expand to a second cohort of faculty and staff at some point in the near future.
“It's been encouraging to see the response to the program,” concluded Gray. “We look forward to not only setting the foundation, but continuing the dialogue and training through additional topics throughout the semester, focused on supporting distress in the classroom and on campus.”
Campus Cares and Pride Cares are just two more examples of the College’s commitment to mental health awareness and support. Each fall, Springfield College annually hosts "Fresh Check Day," a mental health awareness day that highlights mental health resources and coping strategies in a setting that includes interactive expo booths, free food, entertainment, and exciting prizes and giveaways.
Programs like Campus Cares, Pride Cares, and Fresh Check Day, help build a bridge between students and the mental health resources and programs that exist on the campus, in the community, and on a national level.
“Our mental health awareness programs on campus are always about helping others,” explained Johnston. "We know that stress, depression, and anxiety are topics that a lot of our students deal with, so it’s really important to talk about those topics, and to do so in a way that doesn’t have any stigmas, and do it in a comfortable environment.”