December 9, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden

Block Four at Colorado College can be especially brutal for some students. Mucus, shorter days, and colder weather are bad enough. But as a result of the Block Plan, CC ends the semester much later than most other colleges and universities. This can make some students at CC endure harsher mental health circumstances during Block Four than other blocks. This year, after months of student organizing efforts surrounding better mental health support at the institution, the block started week two with a conversation about mental health and a campus wide delay to classes.

The mental health panel, led by Health and Wellness Director Heather Horton, included students and professional care providers on campus, as well as other parties involved in working towards better health conditions at the school. President L. Song Richardson provided an introduction but did not speak on the panel, despite sending out the communication announcing the delayed start to classes. During the discussion, the group spoke about new aspects of their approach to mental health as well as elements they see as important to reshaping the school culture towards being more emotionally sustainable.

The group spent time reviewing some of the resources that already exist on campus, including but not limited to the six free counseling sessions given to each student. They also discussed to a larger extent the collaboration they’re embarking on with the Children’s Hospital of Colorado. The project, which is opt-in for varsity athletes, is aimed at providing tools to create holistic personal wellness.

Outside of this work the group discussed different perspectives about going about community healing. One idea that the panelists spent time discussing was how changing the culture of CC was reliant on the student body. Some of the solutions they spent time discussing more generally put the impetus of action on students generally. In introducing the topic of creating a better learning environment, Horton said “I think [of] proper training and education for all of our CC students on how to provide that care [to other students].”

Other topics of conversation re-affirmed norms such as being supportive for those in community with you already and reaching out instead of focusing inwards when in situations of mental health put community members under duress. However, for some reaching out isn’t the easiest thing.

Student Body President Doré Young was also on the panel. “It’s not enough to have the resources,” said Young. “You also need to… be in a head space to like be able to access them and…seek that out and…take the initiative… so we need to do that work as an institution and do our best to meet students where they are.”

Expanding those resources and their accessibility is of distinct interest for the Colorado College Coalition for Institutional Change. This group is responsible for coordinating the protests that have happened on campus this semester and most recently overtook a Board of Trustees meeting to present their point.

According to a leader of the group, Kat Falencienski ’25, no member of the leadership was asked to join the panel. “The meeting was more theater than substance, and it seemed again like CC was shifting the responsibility for mental health onto us when they should be taking more responsibility themselves,” said Falencienski. The panel did spend time during the discussion talking about the demands the coalition has brought forward and the petition that has over 500 signatures.

Some other students who attended the panel also felt as though they didn’t spend as much time discussing the actual issues at hand. Mackenzie Boyd ’24 said, “I thought it was gonna be a community space… and I got there and was like ‘what’s the point of this?’ Then you’re just telling us everything that you’ve been doing for a while.”

CC is currently putting together a task force to work on the larger issue of mental health. Though some of that work will have to grapple with some students who don’t think current strategies are working.

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