By Bridget Gum
Recently, there have been movements to bring mental health into the forefront of public discussion and eliminate the stigma around asking for counseling support for mental health. Rider started a new program in the Outreach Team for virtual drop-in hours to support the mental and emotional health of its students.
The goal of the Outreach Team is “to improve self-awareness and the emotional well-being of Rider students through mental health and wellness programming,” according to the peer educators on the team.
There are three different options for these drop-in hours. There are general drop-in hours on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. For these drop-in hours, “members of the Outreach Team and Counseling Services are present, to facilitate healthy group dialogues and conversations between students about whatever they choose to discuss or share,” according to Hayley Francobandiero and D’Amani Bowman, both Counseling Services Outreach Team graduate assistants.
While these drop-in hours are not formal group therapy or counseling sessions, there is no strict structure so that the conversation can flow in whichever direction the students want to take it. The Outreach Team also provides information about counseling services provided for students at Rider, as well as discussing questions like “how they are, how are classes, what brought them to us, what they hope for, etc.,” said Francobandiero and Bowman. There are also athlete drop-in spaces on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The athletic department asked to collaborate with the Outreach Team because student-athletes have had a lot of new stressors this year. “With practices being different, lack of play/competition, and athletes losing seasons we felt it was necessary to provide a drop-in space,” according to Dan Maida, another Counseling Services Outreach Team graduate assistant. This drop-in space provides the student-athletes a place to speak about their practices and athletics in general, as well as an opportunity to connect with other athletes.
Finally, the Outreach Team has collaborated with Chi Sigma Iota, the Counseling Honors Society, to host drop-in hours for people of color and their allies on Fridays at 6 p.m. For this group, “the focus is to support one another as we try to navigate through racial tensions and injustices during this time while being advocates for underrepresented populations,” said Francobandiero and Bowman.
This space was opened up mostly in the light of the coronavirus and its aftereffects. The Outreach Team recognizes that many students have not been able to socialize with their friends as they normally would, which has a huge effect on students.
The Outreach Team hopes that these spaces will allow students to connect with other students, as well as to have a place to openly communicate their thoughts and feelings in a safe and comfortable environment. They also give students information about the Outreach Team and Counseling Services, other on-campus resources and those in the local area. “Moreover, we hope that students feel comfortable with discussing topics or expressing their concerns to potentially find a resolution, or just to try to get something off their chest,” Francobandiero and Maida said.
Since this is a new initiative, the Outreach Team is hopeful that many students will attend these virtual meetings, as it believes they could be extremely helpful to the mental and emotional wellbeing of all students at Rider.
Published in the 09/30/20 issue of The Rider News.