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Addressing the Needs of Today’s Spelmanites: How Spelman is Expanding Efforts to Support Student Mental Health

May 2023

The past three years have impacted the mental health and everyday lives of millions of Americans – especially students enrolled in academic institutions. As a result, Spelman College’s Office of Student Affairs – specifically the Counseling Center – has increased its offerings to support students who continue to navigate not just the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath, but the journey to adulthood in the 21st century.

Darryl Holloman Darryl Holloman, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs, attributes the more intentional increase in resources to both notable changes in post-pandemic collegiate life and the importance of meeting the holistic health needs of today's students. That includes those diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and other neurodivergent conditions.

"What we are finding, following the pandemic, is a heightened sense of anxiety, which of course, requires more interaction and intervention with the Counseling Center," said Dr. Holloman. "Creating the appropriate level of support for students in both their curricular and co-curricular engagements fosters an environment of student success. As a component of this, we want to ensure that all students, regardless of their situation, have the appropriate resources in place to help them to matriculate at Spelman."

For Ronjonette O'Bannon, Ph.D., director of the Counseling Center, the expansion of services and resources in recent years has allowed for unique opportunities to engage and meet Spelmanites where they are. Efforts include virtual workshops, support groups, open dialogues and a safe space to connect during challenging times.

Ronjonette OBannon"To better address the diverse needs of students, the Counseling Center has hired two psychotherapists, increasing our ability to meet with students sooner," said Dr. O'Bannon. “Additionally, the Center has responded by working more intimately with student organizations such as HOPE, offering monthly Zoom faculty consultation calls, and distributing our quarterly newsletter, 'The Couch.'"

As increased programming and offerings help to improve the mental health of Spelman students, Dr. Holloman is hopeful that the impacts will reach beyond the gates of campus.

"It is my sincere hope that this will also help eradicate the negative stigma that sometimes limits the growth and understanding of members of the African American community, as it relates to mental and emotional wellness," he said.

However, when it comes to supporting Spelmanites’ mental health and development, Dr. O'Bannon believes the current – and forthcoming – efforts of the Counseling Center team are just the beginning of other administrative, interventional, and programming advances.

"I am uber excited about the future. The Counseling Center will continue educating students, parents, faculty, and staff about the importance of mental health wellness by promoting an open and supportive culture to help students feel comfortable saying, 'I need help,'" said Dr. O'Bannon.

For more information, visit the Spelman College Counseling Center webpage

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