Unofficial Orientation Series 2017: Health Resources on Campus

This is an updated version of a post originally written by Catherine MacLean ’14 which appeared on the Peer Advisor Blog and on Wesleying. It also includes a section on resources for survivors of sexual assault by Ryden Nelson ’16 and Chloe Murtagh ’15, a section on the support groups run by WeSupport by Veronica Harrington ’17, and a section on the new mental health resources initiative by Aliya Shecter ’20 and the WSA.
This is part of our 2017 Unofficial Orientation Series. A quick reminder that you can check out the welcome post here and past years’ series here.

In your time at Wes, you’ll probably need some kind of health support, whether physical, mental, or emotional, and luckily enough, there are quite a few options available. Here’s a crowdsourced rundown of many of the services available to help keep you healthy.

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, take a friend with you, and be prepared for expensive ambulance fees (Wesleyan’s insurance covers a lot of the cost of a hospital visit, and there are free bed funds/financial support if you qualify, but a trip to the hospital can still get pretty pricey).

Of course, the basics: eat well, get a reasonable amount of sleep every night (easier said than done, but really, sleep is super important), 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, Sierra Fowler of the WesWell office at the Health Center, or the managers and nutritionist at Bon Appetit, who handle Wesleyan’s food service. Seirra Fowler 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. 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).

The 2016-17 school year brought many changes to CAPS, in response to student activist demands for CAPS to provide for the basic needs of all students. You can read more about that in our coverage here. The additions to CAPS is as follows (from Dean Mike Whaley’s all-campus email in February 2017):

“We’ve already announced that a full-time psychiatric advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) joined the staff earlier this month.  This new position replaces the previous part-time APRN, and will greatly enhance support for students using psychoactive medication.

A new full-time psychotherapist has also been approved for the start of fall semester. While the office will still adhere to a brief therapy model, the clinicians will be better able to tailor clinical care to individual student needs, including comprehensive wrap-around care and case management to high-risk students with complicated psychiatric issues.

In addition to reduced wait times for initial appointments, as well as more regular ongoing appointments, we expect the increase in staffing will improve comprehensive services for sexual violence prevention and treatment and allow the team to continue building stronger relationships with marginalized students and student groups through outreach activities.

Finally, CAPS also successfully enhanced its after-hours emergency response capability this year through a partnership with ProtoCall Services, which allows students in distress to speak directly with a licensed clinician 24/7.”

There are also many student-run resources for mental health on campus.

  • Aliya Shecter ’20 (Chief of Staff for the 2017-18 Wesleyan Student Assembly) created a website (wesmentalhealth.wixsite.com) to host all information on mental health at Wesleyan as part of her work on the 2016-17 WSA. The site describes itself as “a students guide to accessing the mental health resources at Wes.” It includes step-by-step guides to making a CAPS appointment, pursuing medication as part of treatment, and more! If you have feedback/questions, you can contact Aliya at ashecter[at]wesleyan[dot]edu.
  • Wesleyan’s chapter of Active Minds formed several years ago, and has been active on campus working to support students and reduce the stigma of mental illness. In the past, they’ve held a series of lunchtime talks with featured speakers, so be sure to look for their events this fall, and check out their Facebook page. [Editor’s note: We cannot find evidence of this group being active in the past few years, if anyone has more information, please reach out to us!]
  • The student group WeSupport also runs support groups. WESupport groups are mental and emotional health support groups open to the student body and are led by trained WESupport leaders! These groups incldue support for grief, disordered eating, and general mental health. WESupport is affiliated with CAPS. The groups offered differ each semester, so check the group’s Facebook page or Wesleying in a few weeks to see what is available this semester.
  • 8-to-8 is a free and confidential listening service staffed by specially trained students. They are available, counterintuitively, 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/

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 Resources

Roughly 12% 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. 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! [Editor’s note: We cannot find evidence of this group being active in the past few years, if anyone has more information, please reach out to us! Update from Catherine MacLean ’14: WSDR went defunct around 2015/16, but the alumni who were involved would be thrilled to provide support and assistance for its revival.]

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.

To quote Catherine MacLean ’14:

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.

From michelle:

Asking for help (whether it’s emotional support from your friends, or extensions on assignments from your professors/deans) can feel shameful, especially to those living with “invisible illnesses” like mental illness or chronic pain. We all want to believe we can do it all, and when we can’t, it can feel like a personal failure. It’s hard to avoid those feelings of shame and failure, and denying them doesn’t help either, but looking at your situation from a new perspective can sometimes help alleviate those feelings. Rather than focusing on what your mental health prevents you from doing/being/achieving, try thinking about it like this: You are entitled to the same education as every other student at Wesleyan. Any health issues, whether mental or physical (or not falling along that false dichotomy separating the mind and body), can make accessing that education more difficult. Academic, ResLife, and even social accommodations are available so that you can get as much out of your time here at Wesleyan as every other student, so you should take advantage of them!

Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Although it’s difficult to think about, it is also important to know the resources available to you if you are sexually assaulted.  Here is a chart of your options after you experience the assault.  First and most importantly, take care of yourself, and surround yourself with people who can help take care of you.  Call CAPS (888-999-5545), Davison Health Center (860-685-2470) or the Women and Families Center (888-999-5545) – located on Main Street in Middletown – at any time to talk to someone about your feelings and your options. Someone from Women and Families Center can escort you to Middlesex Hospital for evidence collection and treatment if this option is right for you.  Public Safety can also provide you with a ride to Middlesex. Having evidence collected does not mean you must report to the police or to the school. Your options for reporting are detailed in the flow chart, and a report can be made at any time.  The counselors at CAPS, the chaplains, and the other members of the Sexual Assault Response Team (including a student intern) are always available to talk about experiences of sexual violence whether or not these experiences happened at Wesleyan.

There is also an independent, student-run Survivor Support Network. This group of students who identify as survivors of sexual assault meet regularly in the University Organizing Center to share experiences, pain, victories, and more, as well as working on campus activism around issues sexual assault and survivor advocacy. This group is open to survivors of all genders, and is welcoming to individuals at all stages of coping with sexual assault. Keep an eye out on Wesleying and in the WesAdmits pages for meeting announcements and information!

If any of this seems wrong or incomplete, let us know in the comments or at staff[at]wesleying[dot]org.

This post was updated on 8/12/17 to reflect the following changes: The personal account previously miscredited to kitab was corrected to attribute Catherine MacLean ’14, the original author of this post. An editor’s note was added to the point on Active Minds in the “Mental Health” section. The editor’s note was updated on the Wesleyan Students for Disability Rights paragraph under “Disability Resources.”