Initiatives for Mental Health Awareness Month


Jerry Sheng '20

Mr. Noyes ’78, instructor in art, guides a student on hand-printing.

A relaxation room with bean bag chairs, origami, and scent diffusers is one of several new mental health initiatives being introduced this May.
Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed every May in the United States. The Council on Diversity and Inclusion, along with Bring Change to Mind, will implement a variety of initiatives this month to destigmatize mental illness, increase awareness of mental health issues, and help reduce student stress caused by AP week and finals. Priyanka Kumar ’19, co-head of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, said, “We are trying to [increase] awareness [about] mental health [issues] and create a safe environment to discuss [them] on campus.”

We are trying to [increase] awareness [about] mental health [issues] and create a safe environment to discuss [them] on campus.

— Priyanka Kumar ’19

Initiatives include a bulletin board in main hallway where community members can share responses to the question, “What does mental health mean to you?” This board is similar to the gratitude board that HD TAs set up earlier in the year.
This year’s planning for Mental Health Awareness Month began with an open meeting for students to brainstorm events. Outdoor advisory activities and more food trucks were a few ideas discussed at the meeting.
The Council also met with counselors at the Health Center during the planning process. The group discovered that many students don’t know how to initiate a relationship with a counselor. Kumar said, “We also talked to HD TAs and understood that [mental health] was an important aspect of student life at Hotchkiss that we needed to improve, because students felt like they were drowning under the pressure of the Hotchkiss routine.”
In Auditorium on Tuesday, May 7, members of the D&I Council and BC2M introduced the initiatives to the student body. Dr. Rachel Myers, director of diversity and inclusion, Ms. Jodi Von Jess, director of counseling, and Mrs. Lisa Brown, director of events and special projects, assisted with planning. The auditorium began with a video, which helped explain how to set up a meeting with a counselor.
On May 12, Dana Drost ’07 shared his experiences recovering from mental illness and substance abuse. He was a swimmer and HD TA during his time at Hotchkiss, so he is familiar with the pressure of trying to keep up with social and academic life. After his talk, BC2M hosted an activity where people wrote encouraging letters to others who are going through difficult times.
The fourth part of the Community Conversations series, “Experiences with Mental Health,” gave students a space to ask questions and listen to people’s personal battles with mental health. Volunteers in the community shared other people’s stories, so stories could be told while retaining anonymity. The event was held in the Faculty Room on May 14th.
The Council and BC2M have also worked to make sure the phones in every room are able to reach suicide and support hotlines 24 hours a day. Previously, the room phones could not reach hotlines after lights out, which a student brought to BC2M’s attention in April.
An all-school hand-painting activity took place on Tuesday, May 14 as a form of relaxation. The activity culminated in the creation of the mental health awareness month green ribbon on canvas.
Dr. Myers said, “The activities planned for Mental Health Awareness [Month] hope to achieve holistic wellness for community members individually and also collectively. We all need to re-charge, and we hope we’ve created a number of different ways to do that for the month of May and every month moving forward.”

We all need to re-charge, and we hope we’ve created a number of different ways to do that for [Mental Health Awareness Month] and every month moving forward.

— Dr. Rachel Myers

All community members are welcome to use the relaxation room, which is located in the old IT space on the third floor of the Main Building.