Mental Health Town Hall educates community, raises questions about quality of resources provided

International relations major senior Nydia Constantine (pictured left) and Interim Chief Diversity Officer robbie routenberg (pictured right) participated in a panel about assistance the college provides for students who need counseling. Audience members similarly queried about the programs that they believe the college should enact. (Catherine White/Arts & Entertainment Editor)

Geneseo’s Mental Health Task Force  held the first ever Geneseo Mental Health Town Hall on March 1. The event emphasized the mental health resources the college currently provides and raised some questions about whether the college has allocated enough energy to the cause. 

The town hall revolved around a panel presentation about the various resources the college provides through Lauderdale Health and Counseling, and was followed by a period of question-and-answer. The organizers also provided flyers with information to the audience. 

MHTF chairperson and Lauderdale Staff Counselor Laura Swanson said that the main goal of the event was to provide an important perspective on mental health. 

“One of the things we wanted to emphasize was that mental health is on a continuum and it’s not just illness or wellness, but a lot of places in between and really talk about a preventative and promotional approach, instead of just treatment of illness,” Swanson said. “One of the first questions that was asked afterward was when the next one would be. I think that’s a good sign that people want more dialogue on this.”

Questions from the audience centered on the best way to increase access to mental health resources. Multiple members similarly suggested improvements they want to be made. Sociology and political science double major senior Shauna Ricketts argued that since students use the gym to benefit their mental health, off-campus students should not have to pay extra for membership. 

The panel didn’t provide enough opportunity for listening to what students believe should change, according to Ricketts. 

“I’m a little frustrated to be honest. I think that it’s a great concept and I think that it’s amazing to see that people are here and they care about the issue at hand,” Ricketts said. “I do wish that there was more of an option to give suggestions and discuss the problems that Geneseo has.”

At the same time, Ricketts said the town hall is a positive first step toward making changes. In general, from her experience as a residence assistant and assistant resident director in the past, Ricketts said Geneseo sufficiently teaches RAs about the tools available so they can be advocates for other students.

The college has not done all it can to improve access to mental health resources, according to international relations major freshman Kazon Robinson. 

“It’s either not being utilized to its full potential or students don’t know where to go for the right resources, or students have this idea that they don’t need the resources,” Robinson said.

While he additionally believed the town hall was a productive way to start discussion, Robinson said he would like to see more services and programs for students in the future. 

Turnout for the town hall exceeded 100 people for the audience, with about 60 percent of attendees being students and 40 percent faculty or staff, according to Swanson. Swanson described the event as a first step in the process of holding more community-based events, referring to it as “a beginning not an ending.” 

Lauderdale finds student feedback extremely valuable because that is to whom the programs are catered, Swanson said. She also suggested students give feedback to other departments, such as athletics in the case of free gym membership.

Professor of psychology and panelist at the event Monica Schneider stressed the importance of holding conversations about how the college can best address mental health. 

“In the classroom it’s not just about teaching,” Schneider said. “It’s about creating a safe place for students to thrive, and I don’t just mean academically … I feel it is my responsibility to create an environment where people feel safe, supported, visible, seen [and] respected."