Elizabeth Muirhead ’20 | Assistant Sports Editor
Content warning: mental health, depression
With its enormous south-facing windows and open layout, the Campus Center is one of the brightest and most inviting buildings on campus. If you’ve taken a walk through it at any point over the past week and a half, you’ve probably noticed the colorful ribbons tied around the staircase railings. These ribbons are part of an interactive project lead by Smith Wellness Services, Active Minds and the Community Health Organizers.
Most athletes — and Smith students in general — follow a strict regimen to ensure physical wellness, but this month is Mental Health Awareness Month: a time for us to reach out to our friends, explore and familiarize ourselves with the resources at Smith and work on destigmatizing the struggles with wellness that we — as students, members of the community and individuals — face. Maintaining mental wellness often requires the same sense of routine and aid that physical wellness does, and the exhibit in the Campus Center is a reminder that no one is alone in their struggle to preserve their mental health.The different colored ribbons represent different mental health challenges, and students are encouraged to contribute to the project by adding ribbons that speak to them and their struggles. The orange ribbons represent anxiety, the blue loneliness, the pink stress and the green other mental health challenges.
Last week when I walked through the campus center, I added a green ribbon to the railing as a way of showing the community that I struggle with depression and that I am not ashamed. I see the display as an opportunity to connect with others, show empathy and help direct people to the resources that have helped me.
The project was created by Wellness Services, which offers lots of free resources to help students maintain balance in their lives. Every week, Wellness Services holds two “Wholeness Wednesday” activities: one in the Mwangi Center and one in the Campus Center. Additionally, they hold open hours in the Schacht Center for discussions about health topics. The hours this Fall are Tuesday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wellness services also offers unique and individualized services like free acupuncture and nutrition consultation. To explore and utilize these resources, visit their website or just google “Smith College Wellness Services.”
Some students might feel like they need more personalized attention, and I would encourage them to utilize the therapists in Counseling Services at the Schacht Center. Last spring, I reached out to counseling services to help me through a difficult period. The approachability and usability helped me feel comfortable and empowered. I reached out in the middle of the night via their email (they can also be called). I heard back the following morning and was seen within the next week. Talking to a therapist at Smith helped me flesh out and better understand how I was feeling and what I needed to move forward. They gave me the confidence to continue seeking therapy and other resources at home over the summer and grow into a healthier, happier version of myself.
For me, the project in the Campus Center is an important reflection of how we all struggle and that we’re not alone. But everyone’s experience with mental health is different, and the nuances of how we all cope and what we need is a very personal process of exploration and understanding. The project opens a dialogue, and by fostering positive and safe environments where students can discuss their wellness, we can continue that dialogue. Different individuals need different help throughout their college experience, and that’s why Smith offers such a wide variety of resources. Maybe a few wellness workshops are all you need to feel grounded and balanced, or maybe something more involved and personal, such as counseling, is right for you. Whatever it may be, we, as a community, need to stand by one another and recognize that the stresses of college manifest differently for different people. We must lead with kindness, compassion and empathy.