Norwich Counseling and Wellness Center offers new initiatives for mental health

The staff of Norwich University’s Counseling and Wellness Center are trying innovative strategies to promote the counseling center’s presence on campus, and the effort seems to be working.
“Last year’s total, across the whole year, we had 250 students come through,” said Nicole Krotinger, director of Counseling and Wellness. “This year we are already at 160, and its only October.”
The goal is to boost usage of the center to help manage the mental health of students, according to Krotinger.
Krotinger noted that at least 60 new students have visited the counseling center per month and expects the total number of visitors to surpass last year’s figures. Fewer students visited the counseling center in 2017 because the new counseling staff had just started that year.

“Last year we didn’t do any outreach because we were a new staff,” said Krotinger “So when we started we didn’t have time to introduce ourselves to the freshmen during orientation or the rooks coming in.”
The Counseling and Wellness Center was restructured towards the goal of “making it more accessible” to students. Krotinger didn’t want students to feel “stigmatized” or ashamed for visiting the counseling center.
Some students are under the mistaken impression that coming into the counseling center will go on their medical record, which would raise problems for students who plan to work for the military. But Krotinger explained that the counseling center exists to provide support by talking to them one on one, and not as a medical intervention.
“It’s not necessarily a college counseling center that can handle big mental health crises,” said Krotinger, adding that for serious problems, “we would refer them to Central Vermont Hospital or UVM.”
This year Krotinger heightened the center’s visibility to students by having counselors meet with “cadre, corps leaders, and every single freshman coming through.”
The issues brought up to the councilors’ vary throughout the year but follow a general pattern from the beginning of school to the end of the year. Freshmen come in during the fall season to talk about “homesickness” and their anxiety over academics, while seniors visit counselors in the spring to talk about what they’ll do after graduation.
“For the most part we see a lot of anxiety and depression,” said Krotinger “or students in the process of adjusting to colleges or taking too many classes.”
The Counseling and Wellness Center’s staff have also formed support groups to target specific topics, such as “a grief group and international student groups.” The staff in the counselor talked about forming more support groups including a “substance abuse task force.”
Krotinger stated that her new counseling center operated differently from the old “in the way that we approach students and situations.” These differences included digitizing all of the counseling center’s paper files and implementing a new computer system just this year.
The new resources were provided by a partnership between Norwich University and an initiative called “JED Campus,” run by the nonprofit JED Foundation. The foundation was started in 2000 by the parents of a young man named Jed who committed suicide and it has grown into the nation’s leading organization dedicated to young adult mental health, according to its website.
Through Norwich’s participation in JED Campus, the counseling center receives benefits such as technical assistance, additional education on prevention and student behaviors, and online tools.
The Counseling and Wellness Center has also explored other venues to promote mental health among the students on Norwich’s campus. Krista Day, administrative assistant of the Counseling and Wellness Center, planned a series of seminars called “Wellness Wednesday.” Wellness Wednesday is an event held once a month by the counseling center that features raffles, hands-on activities, and speakers.
“Last year they did Wellness Week,” said Day, “which they felt like they needed to incorporate more activities for students throughout the semester.”
The speakers that are invited range from nutritionists to yoga instructors to massage therapists. Through Wellness Wednesdays, the counseling center introduced alternative ways to ease students’ anxiety and improve mental health by employing third-party vendors.
Guests invited to Wellness Wednesdays who offer their services in Kreitzberg library include acupuncture scheduled on Mondays and yoga on Thursdays. Many of the vendors come from Central Vermont and nearby towns like Waterbury and Waitsfield.
Day gauges the success of Wellness Wednesday with not just a sign-in sheets but also an app called “WellTrack.” She has been promoting WellTrack at events and with posters. Using WellTrack “is a way to track your mind, find what state of mind you’re in, and receive suggestions on how to improve it.”
Maddie Tasha, a senior communications major from Falmouth, Mass., has been using the WellTrack app since August. She works out as a way to stave off boredom and she found the app very “useful” in helping her keep a positive attitude.
“My favorite feature on this is the diary,” said Tasha, “I wrote about a day when me and my friends hung out at my pool and I brought my French bulldog with me. When I open it, I like to be reminded of those memories,” she said.

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