Last week, the Office of Student Wellness organized a series of events under the umbrella title “Anxiety and Beyond: Anxiety Awareness Week.” This series, which was motivated by a national trend in college students reporting more anxiety, came at an ideal time for the Oberlin community as it responded to repeated acts of hate speech on campus.
“It’s a need across college campuses to better support students about identifying anxiety and linking to support and learning self care,” said Lori Morgan Flood, associate dean and director of wellness and health promotion.
Despite the cancellation of classes last Monday and the events that followed due to the hate-related incidents, OSWell decided to continue with Anxiety Awareness Week because of high public interest. “People appreciated the opportunities to talk about anxiety all the way to fear and phobia [and] panic,” Flood said.
OSWell also coordinates The OC, a mandatory first-year experience program. The office is currently in the planning stages, expanding on last year’s skits to address recent events and explain more about how privilege, power and pronouns play a role in campus dynamics.
In response to the campus climate and student concerns, College senior Chinwe Okona, the sexualized violence/violence prevention coordinator for OSWell, helped plan the workshop, Feeling Anger, Affirming Anger. The event, held Thursday afternoon in Wilder 211 and planned in collaboration with the Edmonia Lewis Center and the Oberlin Student Cooperative Assocation’s sexual offense policy advocates, was well attended.
“A lot of times it looks like the MRC is the one that steps up to offer support; other groups and departments need to — and we do want to,” Flood said Tuesday. “We just have to figure out what it is that we want to do in terms of creating a space for people to come [to have a] dialogue, get support and access resources.”
OSWell is also looking for feedback regarding possible programs that would be helpful for the campus community. As fifth-year class dean, Flood has seen an increasing number of students turning to her and the other class deans for support and in search of on-campus resources.
The peer health advocates have been a large part of that resource in Flood’s referrals as the director of wellness. Their diverse backgrounds and activism on campus has helped OSWell handle students’ wellness in the past few weeks.
Peer health advocates are not a new concept. According to Lori Flood, many other colleges across the country have peer health educators, based on “a model that students learn best from their colleagues in terms of self care, wellness and prevention,” Flood said. “It’s a model that’s been demonstrated to work; that’s why we continue to offer it.”
Using peers as resources for health and wellness brings a different perspective to the situation; one more easily accessible to students, according to Anaïs Stewart, the stress management coordinator and College sophomore.
“I think it’s really important that people know that we are here as a resource and it’s not just administrators or a counselor or someone just giving you information,” Stewart said. “These are your peers who are in this Oberlin thing just as you are and can maybe understand you at a different level, but still have those connections to help you out.”
Stewart and Brenna Larson, the mental health coordinator and College junior, both serve on the Student Health Advisory Committee, a task force created by the Counseling Center to address how Oberlin deals with students’ mental health. Their involvement in this ongoing discussion has created a strong collaborative relationship with Active Minds and the Counseling Center. The organizations are increasing and improving lines of communication, which OSWell hopes will be beneficial.
In this difficult time on campus, OSWell is also hoping to make more people aware of the resources that are already available on this campus. Therapy dogs will be visiting next week for midterms, in addition to the study break in Mudd library that OSWell sponsors every semester. There are massages for relaxation, reduced-rate personal training and various other fitness classes.
The Office of Wellness, led by Lori Flood and Ehrai Adams, has two different branches: OSWell and OCWell, which is directed toward faculty and staff at Oberlin. Flood said that since they were asked to start providing programming for staff two years ago, they’ve begun to take a more holistic approach.
“Faculty [and] staff are stressed too and anxious too and are overworked too, so we need to a better job — all of us — taking care of ourselves,” Flood said. “I always say to both students and staff that ‘no one’s going to make you take care of yourself. You have to do it for yourself; you have to just make the commitment. No one’s going to show up and go, ‘Let me take you to yoga.’ You have to just decide; you have to do it. You have to make it a priority.”
Last week’s events were planned by Stewart and facilitated by other members of OSWell. The Office of Student Wellness, the Oberlin Conservatory, the Counseling Center and Student Health Services, Active Minds at Oberlin and Student Senate co-sponsored the events.
Stewart added that the conservatory events were “something that has not really been offered on this campus in terms of performance anxiety.”
“We were really proud to have the Conservatory of Music partner with us and offer programming, because [Conservatory students] tend to be an underserved population … because they’re so busy,” Flood said.