As the clock ticks down toward the end of the school year, students face additional life stressors — due dates for final projects, the perennial scramble to find summer jobs and for seniors, the prospect of many unknowns in the future. At Rider University, the Office of Counseling Services remains in tune with the challenges of especially stressful times and has created a month of events to remind students of the health and wellness resources available to them and to bring more awareness to mental health issues.
Lisa Spatafore ’00, a psychologist at the counseling center, manages these events alongside a team of three dedicated graduate students who form the Outreach team, Shana Gelin, Christina Lloyd and Jennifer Reynolds.
On April 10, AIR (Attitudes in Reverse) will offer a powerful exhibit on the campus green called In Their Shoes. Meant to spark conversations about depression and suicide, the exhibit consists of the shoes donated from families in New Jersey whose loved ones have committed suicide. “Each pair of shoes belonged to someone who is no longer with us,” explains Spatafore. “The exhibit is meant to break the silence for people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or depression, or who have lost someone due to these mental health issues.”
At the event, students will also have the opportunity to sign a pledge to be available to fellow peers who may need support.
Gelin, a second semester graduate student in clinical mental health counseling and Outreach team member, decided to continue her studies at Rider at least in part because of the people she met in her classes and on the outreach team. “In undergrad, I was introduced to the outreach team," she says. "They seemed really engaged and invested in helping other students, and it made me want to be a part of the team and give back to students at Rider.”
On April 17, students are also invited to participate in a program called Stomp Out Stigma. “It’s a two mile run/walk on the campus green where students sign up as individuals or teams to raise awareness about mental health issues and also to de-stigmatize issues related to mental health," says Jennifer Reynolds, who was a double major in psychology and education at Rider and is in her first year of graduate school. "Our hope is also that these events encourage more students to seek services when in need.”
The event features giveaways, raffles for gifts cards and treats from Rita’s Water Ice and Philly Pretzels. The first 150 people to sign up receive a T-shirt, and other prizes are available for participating teams during the walk/race. Registration for Stomp Out Stigma will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 2 at Daly’s Dining Hall and on April 3 at the Bart Luedeke Center. Team or individual participants can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
The other two events for this month include Denim Day on Thursday, April 24, at 11 a.m. in Daly’s and Pet Therapy on Wednesday, April 30, on the campus green in front of Daly’s. For Denim Day, Rider community members are encouraged to wear denim to illustrate solidarity and support for victims of sexual violence. This campaign started in response to a ruling of the Italian Supreme Court that overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans the night of the assault. On Pet Therapy day, certified therapy dogs of all sizes will be around to interact with students.
Lloyd, who will finish her graduate degree in counseling next May, hopes these events will inspire more students to get involved. “There are so many resources and this wealth of knowledge at the Center. Students just need to know what’s available to them,” she says.
For her own part, Spatafore wants to be sure students know that there are many ways to manage stressful times that do not require extensive effort. “Even a small thing like reserving a specific time and then setting a time limit for studying can be immensely beneficial," she says. "My suggestion to students as they near the end of the semester is to strive for balance. Don’t procrastinate, but don’t over-study either. Build in a reasonable amount of study time and put it on your calendar. Then, when you’ve met your goal, stop and reward yourself. Spend time with friends or do something else that is positive.”
For more information about these events or Counseling Services in general, email email@example.com or call ext. 5157.