Mental Health Awareness at SMC
Students’ faces light up upon walking into Alliot Dining Hall to see a Vermont Therapy animal, coloring pages, candy and a wheel of stress reliving activities greeting them on their way to lunch. The Office of Student Life is working in conjunction with student-run club Active Minds to remind St. Mike’s students to take care of themselves on Wellness Wednesdays.
“It’s really important for students to take care of themselves,” said Catherine Welch, Director of Student Life Outreach and Assessment. “Students love animals. A lot of time they are leaving pets at home, and this is a time for them to interact with animals on campus. We are partnering with Therapy Dogs of Vermont to bring dogs to campus and have these days to remind students to take care of themselves and live in the moment.”
Welch saw success with this program last year, saying students loved it. The plan is to have a therapy animal come to campus once a month. Wellness Wednesdays are just one of the programs at Saint Michael’s that is raising mental health awareness. The Active Minds and Hope Happens Here clubs have kicked off the year with a combined effort to get over 100 students out to the NAMI Vermont 5K walk on September, 25, which supported free mental health clinics across Vermont. The clubs organized in memory of Jerry Collins, ’17, who passed away earlier this school year.
“Seeing our community at St. Mike’s come together to walk on Sunday was pretty speechless,” said Ally Huttick, ’17, treasurer for Active Minds. “Jerry had the incredible ability to bring us all together and he hasn’t stopped. Walking with over 100 other classmates in honor of him as well as all others who struggle with mental illness was, for me, just what I needed.”
Saint Michael’s teams raised over $6,500 for NAMI Vermont. This was the first of many activities Active Minds is set to organize for students. The club’s first meeting of the year kicked off with over 75 students in attendance.
“For the year, we are planning to continue the conversation around mental health and mental illness on our campus to ensure that it does not get forgotten about,” Huttick said. “We are planning a number of events for people to relax and take care of themselves. We want everyone to feel welcomed and feel a sense of community within the Active Minds community as well as throughout Saint Michael’s as a whole.”