“Hillsdale’s hard. It’s important to know how to navigate Hillsdale — and life beyond Hillsdale — in a healthy way.”
That’s the reason Brock Lutz, Hillsdale’s director of Health and Wellness, gave for the four-week long psychoeducational group he and Todd Koch, a graduate intern pursuing his master’s in counseling, are starting this semester.
“The goal of the group is to learn some basic skills for stress management,” Lutz said. “We’ll discuss things like scheduling, having a healthy mental perspective, prioritization, and discerning what’s really worthy of stressing over.”
Lutz said the program wasn’t sparked by any particular surge in counseling needs or spike in mental health issues. Rather, it’s part of the college’s ongoing effort to create a support system for particular issues facing students. In the case of the psychoeducational group, the program will focus on education and practical tools rather than being a group therapy session.
“The things that we’ll be sharing are not going to be super personal,” he said. “This is more of a teaching group and is less intimidating in nature.”
This isn’t the first time Hillsdale has offered a psychoeducational program; the Health and Wellness Center hosted a session four years ago to an excellent response. This semester, interest has been so great that the center has expanded the program to two sections on two different days of the week.
Associate Dean of Women Rebekah Dell said she believes the program will be an asset to campus life.
“One of the things that makes Hillsdale special is that we’re intentional about growing in community in all areas,” she said. “We intentionally encourage students to talk to their peers and I think mental health and wellness isn’t something that should be off-limits. Having those conversations that highlight both strengths and challenges is important. That’s honest, vulnerable living and we can all learn something from that.”
Christa LaVoie, a junior studying psychology, said she thinks the program will draw much-needed awareness to the issue of stress at Hillsdale and its serious, long-term consequences.
“Stress is triggered by a hormone called cortisol, which plays a role in many diseases and conditions,” LaVoie said. “The goal is to have lower cortisol levels, but college students usually have the highest amount because we’re under so much pressure. I don’t think people realize how much of an impact stress can have on us until it’s too late. And that’s why it’s important to be aware of it, especially in this season when our brains are growing so much.”
LaVoie said she hopes the program will also help change the campus’s attitude toward stress.
“From an RA perspective and as a student myself, I think stress is something we use as a drug,” she said. “Saying ‘I’m ok, I’m stressed’ when people ask how we’re doing is a go-to phrase around campus. When we tell ourselves we’re stressed, we become what we say we are. That label affects us more than we know.”
That’s why Lutz seeks to equip students with a better understanding of what it means to be a healthy individual.
“We’re all going to encounter stress at some point in our lives,” he said. “The question is, how do we deal with it?”
Sessions began this week and are held Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. and Fridays at 4:00 p.m. Students who are interested in the program can email Linda Snoes to sign up. Spots are limited.