Health Resources on Campus: An Informative Guest Post from Catherine MacLean ’14

healthy-living-woman

BZOD NOTE: A while back, Catherine MacLean ’14 contacted me about including a post about health resources on campus. This was originally posted on the Peer Advisor blog (thanks Peer Advisors!), but we’re posting it again here on Wesleying. As the flu season rolls around and everyone remembers how easy it is to contract every single ailment that everyone in your dorm/apartment/house gets, it’s good to know what your resources are. Catherine also includes helpful sections on mental health and disability services.

Physical Health

On-campus your go-to resource is the Davison Health Center. Staffed with nurses and doctors, you can schedule an appointment (STRONGLY preferred) or walk-in if you have an emergent need during business hours, and they are available by phone after hours. They can do basic tests and offer vaccines, prescriptions, and other services. They also have free cold/flu care packs that you can pick up! All visits and services will be billed directly to private and university-sponsored insurance.  Services that cannot be charged to insurance will go directly to your student account. You should be offered the choice to have laboratory services billed to your student account rather than to insurance (called “client billing” at the Health Center). These student account charges will be labeled to protect confidentiality (i.e. STI tests will be billed to student account as “miscellaneous fee” from the Health Center). 

Off campus, and for more serious needs, Middlesex Hospital is right down the street from campus. If you need to go to the ER, heed these tips (from experience): Call Public Safety in addition to 911, and take a friend with you!

Of course, the basics: eat well, get a reasonable amount of sleep every night (easier said than done), exercise, and take care of yourself.For concerns about nutrition, allergens, or food sensitivities, you can speak to the staff of the Davison Health Center, Tanya Purdy of the WesWell office at the Health Center, or the managers and nutritionist at Bon Appetit, who handle Wesleyan’s food service. Tanya Purdy in WesWell can also help with sleep habits, safer sex, and other health topics. WesWell has a group of students called Peer Health Advocates who can provide information and supplies and often facilitate programs on campus about a variety of health topics and habits. The Freeman Athletic Center has a wide variety of athletic equipment and facilities that are open to all students for free, just check their hours. The Physical Education Department offers .25 credit classes in a variety of sports and activities. Intramural and club sports of all types will be advertised on campus and are a great way to make friends and get exercise. Also, WesBAM (Wesleyan Body and Mind) is the student-run exercise collective on campus. They offer affordable classes in yoga, zumba, cardio kickboxing, and other activities taught by certified student instructors on a per-class or semester basis.

If you are a student who has ongoing health needs, be sure to communicate with the Health Center and your class dean. They can be an invaluable resource. If your health might impact your participation or performance in the classroom, you should also contact the Disability Services Office to identify yourself, and plan to talk with your professors. In order for any sort of accommodations to be provided in class, official documentation must be on file with the University. Even if you’re not sure about what accommodations you want or need, get in touch with Dean Laura Patey, associate dean for student academic resources and the administrator of services for students with disabilities. She can help you determine what will help you and be a liaison to professors or ResLife.

In college, things are handled differently than in high school. A note from mom is not what you need to get you out of class. TRY your best not to miss it, but if you must, contact your professor. It always helps if you’ve been in touch with the Health Center or your class dean if the illness is serious. It is entirely your responsibility to attend office hours or meet with a classmate to make up missed class content and work. Also be sure to ask if any announcements were made in class, which could involved changed due dates, extra office hours or other critical information.

If you so happen to be sick on the day an assignment is due, emailing a copy to the professor, or even dropping it off at their office, can go a long way. If you can hand it in, HAND IT IN. Many professors will not allow make-up exams, so be sure to check on their policies.

In short, advocate for yourself, be proactive, and take care of yourself so that physical illness does not hinder your Wesleyan experience.

Mental Health

On-campus, Wesleyan’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can provide a full complement of mental-health services. You may hear some older students refer to this office by its old acronym, OBHS (Office of Behavioral Health for Students). CAPS is staffed by psychologists and therapists, and has one part-time practitioner who can prescribe medications if needed. The staff is trained in issues that commonly affect college students, and is able to see students weekly, periodically, or just once. The sessions are covered by your tuition and completely confidential (unless, as is stipulated by law, you declare an intention to hurt yourself or others).

There are also student-run resources for mental health on campus. Wesleyan’s chapter of Active Minds formed last year, and has been active on campus working to support students and reduce the stigma of mental illness. Check out their Tuesday lunchtime speaker series this fall!

8-to-8 is a free and confidential listening service staffed by specially trained students. They are available, counter-intuitively, from 7 pm until 7 am by phone at 860-685-7789 or from 7 pm to 2 am online by instant messenger at http://8-to-8.stugroup.wesleyan.edu/

In partnership with CAPS, a variety of student-run support groups have been held in past semesters, including those for grief, disordered eating, and general mental health. Look for those advertised on campus once the semester gets under way.

Finally, there are a number of licensed therapists in practice within walking distance from Wesleyan’s campus. Depending on your needs and your insurance coverage, one of these individuals may be the best fit. CAPS has a list on their website, and you may also be able to search your insurer’s website for this information.

If you are concerned about a friend, you can make an appointment with CAPS to discuss your concerns and do not need to disclose your friend’s name. In an emergency, you can contact an RA, PSafe, or the on-call CAPS clinician. Remember that in an emergency, your friend’s safety and the safety of others is of utmost concern.

In general, mental health is aided by the things that aid physical health: eating well, exercise, and sleep. Spending time with friends and building a comfortable, solid support network of trusted individuals is also important. The transition to college can be difficult and tumultuous, and it is not uncommon for students to find that they are struggling. There are so many resources available to students, and you are encouraged to seek them out if you feel you are in need of them.

If you are already facing mental health issues, or have in the past, do not be surprised if they reemerge or change during the transition to college, or later in your college career. Advocating for yourself, being proactive, and taking care of yourself can help make sure they do not stop you from having an enjoyable, successful, and meaningful time at Wesleyan.

Disability

Roughly 7% of the students at Wesleyan are registered with the Disability Resources Office. As stated above, in order for any sort of accommodations to be provided in class, official documentation must be on file with the University. Even if you’re not sure about what accommodations you want or need, get in touch with Dean Patey, Associate Dean for Student Academic Resources and the administrator of resources for students with disabilities. She is is located at North College, Room 021/022, telephone x2332, lpatey[at]wesleyan[dot]edu.  She holds office hours while classes are in session: M 2:00 – 3:00 pm, T 3:00 – 4:00 pm, W 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Th 11:00 a.m. – noon, and F 2:00 – 4:00 pm. She can help you determine what will help you, be a liaison to professors and ResLife and to CAPS or the Health Center (for mental health issues, physical disabilities and medical conditions that might require accommodation) and she is generally awesome!

Be sure this list of documents, including the Disabilities Services Notification Form, have been filled out and submitted. (Hopefully, if you’re looking for accommodation for the first semester, this is already done).

For peer support and advocacy, Wesleyan Students for Disability Rights has been working hard for several years to increase accessibility and acceptance on campus through workshops, film screenings, and collaboration with professors, administrators, and departments. They have also hosted a weekly social space for students with disabilities. They welcome all students with an interest in disability rights to join them in any way you would like! WSDR is possibly the most awesome group of people on campus (in my extremely biased opinion as a three year member). Check out their extended orientation event Disabling Language: An Open Discussion on Disability at Wes.

All professors are strongly advised to have a statement on their syllabus about disability accommodations. Plan to meet with your professors to discuss accommodations in the first week or so of classes. Open lines of communication are key! Most Wesleyan professors are very open to these types of conversations. The earlier that you can communicate with your professors about your needs, the better the needs can be met and the easier your time will be. Dean Patey can provide tips on how to go about doing this.

If you are a student coming to campus with any sort of physical health issue, mental health issue or disability, know that you are not alone. Many Wesleyan students are dealing with these issues, and many are doing it highly successfully. Those that are the most successful are almost always those who are the best self-advocates. Take the time to be knowledgeable about what you are facing, and the resources available to you. Don’t be afraid to share your experience with a supportive community, be it an established campus group or the students you meet on your hall.

I came to Wes with a more-complicated-than-average medical history, and I see an off-campus therapist while I’m at school. I have found the Health Center, CAPS, Deans, and student groups to be very helpful and my peers to be far more understanding, accepting, and supportive than I initially gave them credit for. My advice: keep your friends in the loop; they can be a vital support system. Don’t be afraid to try a bunch of therapist/doctors/etc. and pick the one you like the best. Keep needed information handy so you don’t have to search for it (I have one Word document with a summary of my health and all my medical contact info). Set aside time to care for yourself, from exercise, to fun with friends, to setting up doctor’s appointments. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you have any questions about WSDR or the content in this post, I’m happy to answer them: cmaclean[at]wesleyan[dot]edu.