August 25, 2010

Administration Adds Mental Health Programs to Orientation

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Two new mental health awareness initiatives were incorporated into this year’s Orientation programs in an attempt to start incoming freshmen off on the right foot as returning students flock back to campus, cross Thurston Avenue bridge and are reminded of last spring’s tragedies. The first program sent new freshmen and transfer students to Bailey Hall Monday night to see a video entitled “Real Students, Reel Stories” — mediated by a faculty member, with a short introduction by President David Skorton. The film, initiated at the suggestion of a group of Cornell upperclassmen, included testimonies from current students and Cornell graduates about how they “de-stress” on campus and how to get the most out of the Cornell experience. “It made me feel more secure about what my time at Cornell will be like, with the students who just graduated and the president [speaking],” John Randolph ’14 said. The video was meant to be an “upbeat introduction to Cornell” that “lets students know about possible hurdles they may have to jump in the future,” said Nicole Stevens ’11, co-chair of the Orientation Steering Com­mittee. “I think it’s important to let students know that Cornell is sort of a roller coaster,” Stevens said. “You’re not always going to be on a high. There will be ups and downs, and students will be facing challenges here that they did not face in high school. It is important to start students off on a good foot.” The second phase of the mental health programs will consist of an optional series of small group discussions mediated by faculty, students who spoke in the video and mental health professionals from EARS and Gannett Health Services. The panels will deal with heavier issues like dealing with severe stress, alcohol consumption and other situations that could lead to mental distress to give students the opportunity to express any deeper concerns or problems they may have, Stevens said. “We don’t really want to scare the new students by saying, ‘Cornell is a really stressful place,’” said Fang Qiao ’11, co-chair of the OSC with Stevens. “We are just more vigilant and more aware in terms of informing students about where they can find help if they need it.”

Original Author: Dani Neuharth-Keusch