SHOC Works Towards a Mentally Healthier Future

Mental Health is a prevalent issue on college campuses throughout the nation, yet an issue that is often considered a taboo subject. Colby’s Student Health on Campus (SHOC) organization, a group of Colby students under the direction of a staff advisor, is dedicated to educating and illuminating mental health issues around campus. On November 19th, SHOC will sponsor the mental health narratives, an event where members of the College can share and listen to their peers’ experiences with mental health. The Echo had the opportunity to sit down with Emma Clay, the co-president of SHOC, to discuss the upcoming mental health narratives and the mental health support systems at the College.

Nathaniel Rees: What are the mental health narratives? 

Emma Clay: The mental health narratives is an event for people in the Colby community to share their stories about mental illness.  It can be about themselves, family, or friends. The narratives can be read anonymously, or by the person who wrote them.  It is always a really powerful event.

NR: How did you first become involved with SHOC?

EC: When I was a freshman I knew a senior who was on SHOC. I knew that I wanted to become involved so I volunteered my freshman spring for them and then applied to be a member for my sophomore year.

NR: What is the role of SHOC on campus?

EC: SHOC does all sorts of things.  We help staff the first year wellness seminars, help out with the flu clinics, and do programming around mental health, physical health, alcohol and drugs, and sexual health.  We are probably best known on campus for our big events like Stressbusters and Sexpo. We hope to try to educate the student body on any and all issues related to help and encourage a healthier campus.

NR: What is the purpose of the mental health narratives? What do you and the rest of SHOC hope to accomplish?

EC: The purpose of the mental health narratives is to allow a space on campus for people who are experiencing mental health issues to be heard. Not only that, but it allows for members of the community who are not experiencing mental health issues to learn about what it is like to struggle with a mental health issue.  It is as much about empowering those individuals who write the narratives as it is educating the community.

NR: Do you believe Colby handles mental health issues on campus effectively? How could Colby do a better job of caring for depressed/anxious/bipolar/ etc students?

EC: I think that Colby has really great counseling services and I wish that more students utilized them.  I think that the events of last spring made the administration more aware of how serious mental health problems can be and I think that everyone is working hard to make Colby a safer place for students who are struggling. 

NR: Have you ever struggled with mental health?

EC: I struggle with an anxiety disorder.  I left Colby my freshman fall and ended up spending time at a residential anxiety treatment program.  It was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.  Anxiety is something that I live with everyday, but it no longer controls my life.

NR: How has that experience informed your aspirations for SHOC, mental health narratives, and how you understand mental health?

EC: I am definitely very focused on the mental health programming that SHOC does.  It is something that I am passionate about and I think that the more people talk about mental health, the better.  Everyone struggles with something, and for those who struggle with mental health, being in a community that is accepting of mental health struggles can make a huge difference in their treatment.

NR: As a senior, what direction do you envision for SHOC?

EC: I think that SHOC is a really amazing group of students who are all passionate about health.  I hope that our large events continue to be well attended and that more people come to our smaller events

NR: Is there a stigma at Colby surrounding mental health? If so, how can the Colby community become more comfortable discussing mental health?

EC: I think that there definitely is a stigma, and not just at Colby but in society in general. I think that the first step is getting people to come to events like the narratives, to get them thinking about mental health.  I also think that students who struggle with mental illness, when they are ready to, should try to talk about it.  I have felt nothing but support from anyone I have shared my story with, and I think the more anyone is talking about mental health, the better it is for the whole community.

NR: Anything else you’d like the Colby community to know?

EC: Write a narrative!  It can be about personal struggles, your experience of being a supportive other, or your dreams for a mentally well campus.

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