Mental and Emotional Wellness Vital for Future

Recent events have stirred conversations throughout campus about what kind of changes our community needs and how to implement them. As three students actively concerned about our community in the present and the future, we would like to underline the issue of students’ mental health and inadequate mentors. We by no means claim to be experts on these matters and do not intend to detract from the other needs our community has expressed. But we hope to echo multiple students’ concerns about the lack of sufficient services addressing mental health as our campus continues to strive for reform.

Upon our observations and discussions, we found that students are not guaranteed equal and easy access to a mentor fully committed to knowing them (in some cases, beyond simply discussing their major or classes). Although everyone has a different college experience and identity, many students expressed that they periodically endure mental and academic hardships without feeling able to comfortably discuss personal struggles with their advisors or having access to counselors at the most critical times. We infer that this is because many mentors do not have the time or capacity to help each student — more specifically, to help them develop a positive outlook and have the tools, resources and networks necessary for dealing with their issues — during busy and stressful times. Each student deserves to have a grounded figure who is willing and able to foster the best conditions for their personal well-being.

In light of these problems, we suggest that the College consider a few different approaches. The College could modify its requirements for what advisors must do for their advisees. This could entail instructing advisors and advisees to make a greater effort to know one another and their needs while permitting students to easily change their advisor. Alternatively, the College could offer students a mentor separate from their advisor who is not necessarily affiliated with their major. More importantly, the College could offer more extensive and accessible services to counselors who are trained to deal with the issues students face or at least offer methods of transportation to locations where such counseling is available throughout the day. In the former, non-transportation approach, this mentor would strive to develop a personal relationship with each student by checking in with them frequently throughout the year, and showing care and concern for each student’s mental and emotional health. These figures would actively connect students with useful resources and people as well as advocate for them in certain arduous situations. Also, the College could implement a pilot program through career services in which students connect with alumni before they prepare to graduate. Although all of these approaches would be difficult to enforce, the College must institutionalize standards and structures ensuring each student’s personal health is sustained.

We believe that, if the College considers our recommendations, students will feel more motivated, centered, visible and validated in all areas of their campus life at Oberlin. Students would be less prone to feelings of isolation and neglect while having the tools to enhance their confidence and to work through their issues. By identifying and stating the need of maintaining students’ mental and emotional wellness, we hope that further measures will be taken to incorporate students’ concerns about guidance as the College plans for the future.

–Simone Brodner
College junior

–James Luttrell
College junior

–Sinem Semsioglu
College sophomore