Students seeking mental health resources look to WAC Squared for peer-to-peer help

By Faith Molitor

Elm Staff Writer

Earlier this semester, Washington College Health & Counseling Services changed leadership, with Roland Jennings assuming the role of clinical coordinator for counseling services. The Counseling Center also added Eboni Taylor-Tue ’97 as a Clinical Counselor.

Despite the change in leadership, many students believe that the Health and Counseling Services should be doing more on campus for those that struggle with mental health. 

Freshman Sheri Swayne believes that there needs to be more specified resources for students.  

“I feel like it has been generalized quite a bit in order to help as many people as possible, which is good, but addressing people as one entity and not as unique individuals is going to have a variable of exclusion and a feeling of being overlooked,” Swayne said.  

In order to create more options for students seeking mental health resources, the Mental Health Wellness Advocacy Coaches, otherwise known as WAC Squared, program launched in September 2021.

Dr. Lauren Littlefield, who oversees the Clinical Counseling Concentration within the psychology department at WC, was key in establishing the program.

“The idea for the service started with [Interim Dean of Students] Greg Krikorian, who had witnessed the success of similar programs at institutions where he previously worked. Along with the previous director of counseling services, I developed an internship program to appeal to the need on campus for students to have more forms of support,” Dr. Littlefield said. 

Part of the reason why the program is so successful is due to the peer-to-peer connections.  The Mental Wellness Advocacy Coaches provide the baseline for those that want help but do not feel comfortable going to Counseling Services while spreading awareness about mental health.  

“Many students are scared to get professional help or that may be too big of a step for them, so we are here as an informal resource that understands how hard college can be,”  Mental Wellness Advocacy Coach junior Dori McMenamin said. 

Before they begin their work, the coaches are required to undergo mental health first aid, a program which trains students to foster adaptive patterns and provide short-term relief. 

“WAC Squared is a safe and confidential place to come and talk to a college peer. We are here to listen and give ideas on how you could take on your current situation,”  Karli Oates, a sophomore Mental Wellness Advocacy Coach, said. 

 The program has a special meaning for the coaches as well. Marah Vain-Callahan, a psychology major senior, is touched by the program and cannot wait to see where it goes after she graduates. 

“While we are coaches rather than counselors, getting to practice the art of connecting with people is such a rare and unique experience at the undergraduate level. It has affirmed my belief that I want to help people who may be struggling,” Vain-Callahan said.  

Yet the coaches also believe that there could be more to the program. Many of the coaches, including McMenamin and Oates, think that since the program is relatively new, the possibilities are endless.

“I would love to see more wellness coaches hired, with the potential of expanding hours and allowing for more students,” Vain-Callahan said.   

They also work with the Washington College Psychology Club to create a more inclusive space on campus, with frequent yoga classes, paint nights, and succulent planting. This new initiative includes their own Instagram account, @waschcoll_counseling.  

“We are experimenting with adding new components to the wellness initiative all the time to make sure that we are providing a service that the students want. This spring, we will continue a success from last spring by hosting a series of arts and crafts/relaxation nights. We will also be partnering with various organizations on campus to co-host with them as well as provide support and mini-workshops,” Dr. Littlefield said.

Senior Nicky Herrera agrees that official quiet time is needed for students to be able to do well in their classes while juggling extracurriculars. 

“I have enjoyed extracurricular activities, but many times it’s too much and time runs out for completing assignments. It is important for students to practice self-care instead of stretching themselves thin,” Herrera said. 

As finals are fast approaching, the Wellness Advocacy Coaches’ doors are open to new students that need help balancing schedules, test material, and the stress that comes with being a college student. They are located in the Students Events Board office of Hodson Hall Commons. Their hours are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 

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