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Notre Dame implements fifth HERE value: emotional support and well-being

| Friday, September 4, 2020

Along with the physical dangers of being on campus during a global pandemic, University leaders are concerned about the effects on students’ and community members’ mental health. In an effort to expand COVID-19 assistance to include mental health support and resources, Notre Dame has recently launched a fifth HERE value –– emotional support and well-being.

Vice president of the University graduate school, Laura Carlson, is leading the newly created emotional support and well-being group. Their goal, Carlson said, was to alter the HERE campaign to focus on the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health.

“One of the initiatives that we undertook was to think about the HERE campaign, which is really an emphasis on physical health and broaden that to include the emotional component,” Carlson said.

Jennifer Hames, a professor of psychology who serves on Carlson’s committee, agreed with Carlson and said she believes there are a lot of factors leading to the necessity of this new value.

“As a result of the pandemic, as well as the social unrest that’s happening with regard to race relations in our country right now, there’s just so much uncertainty, unpredictability, lack of control and just overall unrest and stress,” Hames said. “It’s one of these situations where it’s to be expected that people are going to be struggling emotionally.”

Hames also stressed the importance of students, faculty and staff prioritizing their mental health during these times.

“It’s so important to be taking care of our mental health all the time, but especially during times where there is just a chronic and ongoing stressor … It could be COVID-19, it could be the race relations in our country, and all of these things are really intersecting right now causing a lot of extra stress that we’re not used to having on our plates,” Hames said. “And when that’s the case that makes us more vulnerable to falling into more anxiety or more depression or just anything that we may have been experiencing before –– it can be much more easily amplified or intensified.”

Carlson explained that one of the new resources being implemented is a database of mental health resources located under the Emotional Support and Well-Being tab on the HERE website.

“I think it has over 100 resources now,” Carlson said. “You can type in keywords and it will pull up resources that might be helpful, so if you type in self-care, for example, you’ll get a listing of either articles suggestions tips that are just from a variety of sources, both internal to Notre Dame and external.”

Carlson also highlighted the expansion of the COVID-hotline to include 24/7 counseling.

“Anybody –– faculty, students, staff –– could call it just to have a conversation with someone 24/7 about something that they’re feeling anxious about, and they will transfer them as needed to a licensed counselor,” Carlson said.

In addition to an expanded hotline, Carlson said students in quarantine and isolation are now receiving mental health check-in calls along with physical health check-ins.

Senior Grace Dean, who serves as the undergraduate representative for this task force as well as the student government director of health and well-being, said the task force’s job wasn’t necessarily to create more resources, but to find a way to make pre-existing resources more available to students.

Dean said she believes McWell is a fantastic mental health resource on campus.

“I would urge anybody wanting to either work on self-care or learn more about their own mental health and emotional well-being to either visit McWell or look into some of McWell’s resources on either the HERE website or the McWell website directly because they’re just an invaluable source that we have here,” Dean said.

Alan Costello, one of the graduate student representatives in the task force and the healthcare and wellness chair for the graduate student organization, said the increase in mental health-related HERE resources around campus was purposeful.

“[The posters] are not these blocks of text, they’re just simple things to keep in mind,” Costello said. “Around Duncan, you should start seeing the single elements that you can just take away very quickly as you’re walking by.”

Costello said the goal of the posters and trifolds around campus are not to overwhelm students with information.

“I’m a student as well you know, I go to LaFortune, I notice I’m seeing trifolds all the time, and I think a lot of the time, you kind of end up with some like visual clutter,” Costello said. “What I tried to focus on was breaking it down into bullet points and quick takeaways.”

Dean said she wanted to stress to her fellow undergraduate students these are difficult times and it is okay to ask for help.

“It’s okay to seek help for mental health and there should not be a stigma around that,” Dean said. “Coming back to school is having, obviously both physical consequences with the public health crisis that we’re at, but also mental health implications that we also need to prioritize and work on as a community.”

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