The Student Newspaper of The Loomis Chaffee School

The Loomis Chaffee Log

The Student Newspaper of The Loomis Chaffee School

The Loomis Chaffee Log

The Student Newspaper of The Loomis Chaffee School

The Loomis Chaffee Log

What we’re thankful for
What we’re thankful for
February 11, 2024
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Prepare for cold
February 11, 2024
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Mental Health Awareness Month

Ellen Chen
Mental health poster

In 1949, to address a spike in mental illnesses among World War II veterans, the United States Congress designated the month of May to raising awareness surrounding mental health. Over the years, as it gained attention in the media, mental health has increased in importance on the Loomis Chaffee campus as well. Throughout the past year, various members of the LC community have participated in diverse initiatives, all dedicated to emphasizing the importance of psychological well-being and eradicating the stigma around mental illness.

On May 9th, 2023, the Pan-Asian Student Alliance (PASA) hosted a mental health panel with emphasis on experiences within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. English Department faculty Sangyeop Kim, who serves as faculty advisor to PASA, underscored the alliance’s aim to address the severity of mental health struggles.

“We’ve been talking about it for a while because the data is troubling,” Mr. Kim said. “I don’t want to be alarmist and say we’re doomed, but there’s a nationwide mental health crisis. And there are also metrics that indicate — especially with certain age groups such as young adults and college students — that sometimes those mental health crises have alarming consequences for people who should be getting support but are not.”

Regarding the specific questions discussed, Mr. Kim added, “We [members of PASA] planned [the topics] together, curated the questions, and workshopped them. They’re a reflection of what’s on our mind, a reflection of the things we’ve recognized that need to be talked about.”

Mr. Kim also addressed a few regrets about the panel.

“The format didn’t allow us to explore things as fully as we [wanted],” Mr. Kim said. “And there’s a delicacy about talking about things that may be a bit too challenging for [such a space]. Even on campus, lots of students who have concerns feel uncomfortable with the idea of getting [mental health] support.”

He highlighted the necessity of continuing discussions surrounding mental well-being. “I think of [events like this panel] as part of a longer conversation that should be carried on for years, at this school and beyond,” Mr. Kim said.

Mr. Kenneth Green, who has been working with the Loomis Chaffee Counseling Department for twelve years, expressed similar sentiments regarding prioritizing mental health at LC. Specifically, he commended Loomis’s promulgation of its resources.

“I think Loomis does a very good job of giving the students information,” Mr. Green said. “At the beginning of the year, the Counseling Department goes to each of the class meetings and tells students about its services. Sometimes, we post therapeutic tips or resources on the Loomis website.”

Commenting on the school’s accessible mental healthcare, Mr. Green said, “We have four counselors, a consulting psychiatrist, and a few private therapists, so we have [sufficient] means to do immediate crisis counseling and assessments of whatever the issues are. Then, we refer to a therapist or psychiatrist for further consultation.”

Mr. Green also admires the peer support network on campus.

“A lot of young people I’ve worked with [at Loomis] talk about how they listen to their peers, how they give each other advice, and how they recommend [those who need more help] to go to counseling,” Mr. Green said.
He explained the importance of seeking professional guidance.

“A lot of students do what we call ‘self-diagnose’: they go on their computers and look up things; they say, ‘Oh, I’m feeling like this… it must be that [illness]…’ You really want to [be cautious] with that. Just because you have some stressors [or] struggling with some issues, does not necessarily mean you have a mental health problem,” Mr. Green said.

He stated that the Counseling Department adopts a less dichotomous approach.

“We use a wellness continuum [and encourage students to] talk to someone before they feel like they’re in a crisis situation where they can’t function at an average daily level: they can’t wash their faces, they can’t be motivated, [or] they don’t eat,” Mr. Green said. “We are trying to demystify this idea that if you talk to a counselor, something’s wrong with you. [We’d like to] allow young people at Loomis to feel like they could check in with us without feeling like [they have a] ‘problem.’”

At Loomis, the Peer Health Educators also play an important role in enlightening students about mental wellness. This year, the group consists of sixteen seniors led by Dean of Student Life and Wellness, Jessica Matzkin and English faculty and Head of Flagg Hall, Michaela Chipman.

Dean Matzkin detailed some of the Peer Health Educators’ efforts around campus.

“There’s been lots of making … and postering of fact sheets about mental health topics around campus,” Dean Matzkin said. “[The Peer Health Educators] also ran Healthy Love Week, which was a pretty big event.”

She stressed the extent of mental health advocacy and education that Loomis strives to reach.

“I think that we try to do it over and over again throughout the year, … we’re one of the few independent schools that have counseling services throughout the day and into the evening,” Dean Matzkin said. “We also introduce mental health topics in the seminar programs, dorm life curricula, and sometimes Pelican Days.”

Dean Matzkin especially appreciates the role of students in spreading mental health awareness on campus.

“Any time we put students in front of other students to talk about a topic, we’re usually making some progress because our students often respond better to peers,” Dean Matzkin said. “That peer-to-peer programming is important because they’re communicating information in a way that their peers are able to absorb.”

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