Emma Bellantoni, reporter
MOUNT BERRY, Ga. – The Counseling Center at Berry College has implemented new services and improved the resources offered for the 2022-2023 academic year.
With expanded resources, the Counseling Center provides students with services that help them grow both academically and personally. The Counseling Center struggles with offering free, available sessions for students; however, with new staffing in place, students are now able to be seen biweekly rather than the previous once per month. There are also new resources offered such as peer wellness coaches, a mental health resource app and the Berry suicide prevention project.
Group and individual counseling sessions are also offered at the center. Although mental health resources are typically available to those who can afford it, Berry College includes the cost of these resources in tuition. Connor Pierce, a counselor at the center, believes that not as many students would be able to visit if there were a price tag.
“I’ve always enjoyed college counseling because it’s one of those things where if you can afford college, this is an option you have for free,” Pierce said. “If you have to swipe your card every time, a lot less people, I think, would come.”
Pierce is running a group therapy called “Becoming You,” that is about strengthening the relationship with one’s own self and others. Pierce says that group therapy is important because it’s a visual representation of how individuals are not alone.
“You get to see in person that you’re not alone,” Pierce said. “Sometimes just hearing how someone else has been handling or navigation their thing can really illuminate stuff for you.”
If students are unable to wait to see a counselor, the center offers same-day solution sessions. These sessions are 30-minute blocks that are there for those in crisis to figure out how to navigate and resolve what they are feeling.
The counseling center introduced peer wellness coaching this year. Peer wellness coaching is offered through three senior psychology students that work in the center to help those who may be experiencing test anxiety, relationship issues, roommate conflicts, stress and time management concerns. Peer Wellness Coach Asa Daniels says that the connection between themselves and their clients is strengthened because of the shared student status.
“They may be more comfortable talking to another student about issues about homesickness, or meeting new friends or dealing with test concerns, because these professional counselors, they don’t have those currently so maybe they cannot relate as much or give as useful advice,” Daniels said.
For the students who either do not feel comfortable with seeing a mental health professional or do not have time on campus have another option. According to Becca Smith, Director of the Counseling Center, the center introduced a mental health resource app that is free for Berry students.
“We are also offering the Oasis mental health and wellbeing app that Berry Students can download and use for free,” Smith said. “It has a lot of resources to help students with either wellness or mental health concerns.”
The Suicide Prevention Project is new to the Berry Counseling Center through a grant. The campus efforts are under an umbrella of a campaign that, Director of the Suicide Project, Majonica Askew, named “Hope 9-8-8”. Askew said that the name of the project is an effort to get the new suicide crisis hotline number out into the public’s eye. The hotline number was changed to a three-digit number for the sake of memorization. The project is continuing to grow through programs for parents, faculty, professors and other staff on campus. Although there is rapid growth, Askew is continuing to do research on what the students need.
“I feel like the main thing about suicide prevention, and you’ll hear this a lot as we continue to reduce the stigma around suicidal thinking and mental health crisis, is that hope comes in many different forms,” Askew said. “They can be very simple just to check in on someone and ask them how they’re doing and really listen for the answer and show that you’re there.”
Askew explains the “QPR training” available to faculty, staff and students through Hope 9-8-8.
“QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer which is a training program which builds skills for recognizing and responding effectively to suicide warning signs,” Smith said. “QPR is easy to learn, takes only one hour and is free to students, faculty and staff.
The Counseling Center is working hard to help all students in need through offering more resources, but like everything, there are difficulties the center faces. Even with the struggles faced, the center is continuing to grow with the needs of the student body.
“The difficulties we face is serving all the students as much as we would like to,” Smith said. “We would love to see all students every week for counseling, but it just isn’t realistic. We have added other services to help meet the need such as group therapy, drop-in educational workshops, and the Peer Wellness Coaching program.”