For Rose Warren ’21, there is a clear need in Bowdoin for more student talk about mental health. Three weeks ago, she received an official charter from the Supervisory Committee of Student Organizations to found the Mental Health Club.
The idea for the club “hit me like a light bulb,” Warren said.
She cited the perceived tendency of Bowdoin students to hide mental health issues as a major factor in the need for a student-led group to advocate for awareness.
âBowdoin is such a tough school and a lot of people pretend they’re doing well and being happy all the time which is pretty problematic,â she said. “They aren’t looking for help because they think everyone around them is okay.”
Additionally, Warren argued that mental health is often not seen as as important as physical health. She spoke of examples of teachers giving overtime for broken arms and coaches excusing training absences for a minor illness but not for mental health issues – sentiments that were expressed during a panel on the issue. athletics and mental health last year.
The problem, according to Warren, is not a lack of attention, but stems from the inability of students to actively consider solutions to the problem.
âI think a lot of students and administrators care [and discuss] mental health, but they don’t know exactly how to deal with it, âshe said.
To increase dialogue about mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding it, she plans to have the club work with organizations on and off campus. For Warren, mental health encompasses all aspects of student and university life.
âI want to give students the opportunity to express their mental health experiences in relation to their other identities,â said Warren.
She says the club could potentially work with the Bowdoin Queer-Straight Alliance and the African American Society to discuss and raise awareness about the mental health of LGBTQ + and African American students, respectively.
In particular, Warren would like to join the sports community. As a member of the squash team, she knows how much mental health and athletics are linked. Playing with poor mental health will have a negative effect on performance. Warren believes that bringing athletes together to talk about their experiences with mental health would help spread the idea that mental health is as important as physical health.
“If you are not feeling well mentally, that should be as good as having a cold, because if you have a cold you are not coming to train,” she said.
One problem Warren noted with counseling is that counselors are often overbooked. Warren also acknowledged that campus-wide misconceptions can often prevent students from seeking help.
âThere is a perception that students don’t want to go to counseling because the counseling is related to administration,â Warren said. “I think we can start to reduce the stigma when we appeal to the administration, thus treating it as something that doesn’t need to be hidden.”
Warren is also considering working with and obtaining advice from counseling centers, private counselors and clinician offices specializing in eating disorders in Brunswick. She hopes that students who are clients of the different practices could tell counselors about the club and find out if they have anything to contribute.
She would also like to work with and educate local elementary, middle and high schools in Brunswick.
“[Some students] aren’t even really sure what mental health issues are, âWarren said. âStarting at a young age and instilling the mindset that your sanity is very good and you don’t need to be ashamed of it is really important because by entering college you will have a better relationship with yourself. “
The club received 130 registrations at the club fair and Warren said this high level of interest indicates how important mental health is, how little is talked about it and how much students want to talk about it.
The management team currently consists of eight people and two advisors: Assistant Director of Career Planning Bethany Walsh and Associate Director of Outreach and Group Programming Bryan Mendiola. Warren met with them last Sunday to discuss the roles people should play and the structure of the club. As it is a new club, they have agreed to keep things open.
“[We are an] constantly evolving club that takes into account the needs of students and the campus, âsaid Warren.
During their Sunday meeting, the leadership team also talked about doing weekly tea and dessert positivity talks where students can talk about their weeks and learn to talk about themselves in a positive way. General assemblies will be held once a week on Sunday.
âWe have to hear people’s ideas up front to set a precedent that this is a club to be taken seriously,â said Warren.