March 17, 2023 | NEWS | By Charlotte Maley
Colorado College is an undergraduate institution that praises itself for its dedication to student wellbeing. In light of student advocacy, that commitment has been focused upon the ongoing mental health crisis.
Of course, CC alone cannot be the cause of this higher education epidemic of depression and anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, 60% of college students nationally meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder, and “by every metric,” students are growing progressively sicker.
It’s unrealistic to expect a small liberal arts school to solve a crisis that’s been undefeated throughout the country, However, the Wellness Resource Center on campus has come under fire from some CC students who say it is hardly providing resources and services to them.
Senior Health and Wellness Director Heather Horton has been missing in action since last semester, and her practice at CC has been marked in bold as “permanently closed” on Google. Moreover, her profile has been removed from the ‘About’ section of the office’s website.
According to the Wellness Center, Horton is no longer working at Colorado College, a community that she’s been a part of for the last 18 years. Her silent disappearance raises questions for some students.
Before her leave in the fall, Horton’s New Student Orientation presentation for the first-year class stirred controversy. According to one first year, who wanted to remain anonymous on account of medical privacy, Horton had students submit examples of trauma into a computer program which would then be displayed in front of the entire auditorium.
One example which landed on the board was “withholding.” Upon reading this, she got “very aggressive,” according to this freshman, and proceeded to, “invalidate the student’s trauma.” Horton seemed to interpret the student’s comment as meaning sexual withholding in terms of romantic relationships, rather than the withholding of care from a guardian. When students began to submit other anonymous answers to be displayed on the board that said things such as, “Your trauma is valid,” Horton ignored them.
Before the incident with the trauma question even began, some students remember her being very aggressive and out of control with some disruptive students. “To be fair,” said another anonymous student, “people were being disrespectful, but her behavior was extremely defensive.”
Later, during a quiz that the students had to take about the presentation, a few hands went up complaining that some of the quiz answers didn’t match the notes given in the presentation. Upon hearing this, Horton alleged that students were being “disrespectful to her as a speaker.”
Students that attended the talk were unsettled by what happened. “This was a space where students were supposed to be educated about trauma to raise awareness about mental health,” said Jonathan Davis ‘26, “There are other ways to educate students if they make comments that don’t align with a certain topic.” With both students and, evidently, Horton, upset, incoming students didn’t get the best impression of the mental health resources on campus. Horton declined to comment.
The Wellness Recourse Center, which focuses upon holistic student wellbeing, and whose primary focus is to promote mental health care and suicide prevention at CC, does not currently have a psychologist. The office includes a public health expert, COVID-19 response coordinator, the Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator, and an administrative assistant, but no mental health specialist.
Horton, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, was the only one providing the center with a skillset capable of taking on such a pervasive epidemic as the student mental health crisis. Without a qualified director, the center is unable to fulfill its role.
In the latest newsletter sent out to the community regarding CC’s efforts to tackle the mental health crisis, it was announced that the school is looking for an “associate vice president of wellness,” whose responsibilities would likely replace that of Horton’s previous position. According to the email, finalists for the position should be invited back in the next week or two. As of this moment, a few stray fliers posted up around dorm hallways and some counseling center therapists are what’s holding together the boldly proclaimed mental health initiatives at CC.