Third annual Well-Fest promotes student health

By ALYSSA WOODEN | November 1, 2018

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COURTESY OF AJ TSANG Students wrote down ideas for how they would improve mental health at Hopkins.

The Student Government Association (SGA) hosted the third annual Well-Fest on Friday in Levering Courtyard. Well-Fest aimed to raise awareness of mental and physical health resources available to students.

In addition to SGA, organizations tabling at the event were A Place To Talk (APTT), the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) and the Student Health and Wellness Center (HelWell). Some resources they advertised included workshops offered by the Counseling Center. 

SGA Executive Vice President AJ Tsang explained that in addition to raising awareness, Well-Fest intended to give students who stopped by a chance to de-stress. 

“It’s the middle of midterm season, and especially since there are no big breaks until Thanksgiving, we wanted to give students a chance to de-stress and to relax,” Tsang said.

He elaborated on action that SGA has taken over the past year to improve student health and well-being.

“We’ve worked to get the Counseling Center to have walk-in hours; we’ve campaigned Stop the Stigma to de-stigmatize mental health; we worked on the initial funding and advocacy for the Calm app, which has now been renewed by the school overall for another few years,” he said. 

Tsang said that SGA is also working with the University to create mental health advocates, which are faculty in each department who are specially trained to help students struggling with their mental health. These advocates will be able to refer students to various campus resources and create a culture of support within their department.

CHEW’s table had activities intended to help students de-stress. CHEW, which aims to promote healthy behavior in students, includes student groups like Preventative Education and Empowerment for Peers (PEEPs), the Sexual Assault Response Unit (SARU) and Stressbusters.

Jessica Alexy, a graduate student employee at CHEW, described how Hopkins students tend to neglect self-care due to academic and extracurricular pressures.

“They just get overwhelmed,” she said. “They overload themselves with schoolwork, [try] to fill themselves with extracurriculars, and they might stretch themselves too thin and maybe not consider their own self-care. That can wear you down and make you less effective in all areas of your life.”

Members of APTT handed out stickers and displayed a poster on which students could write down how they were feeling. 

Sophomore APTT member Tihitina Aytenfisu described how the organization helps students who may be struggling with their mental health.

“[We] give people the opportunity to talk about their lives,” she said. “Anything small or anything big, [we] serve as an outlet for... some of the tough stuff people might all be going through.”

Tina Huang, a senior APTT member, mentioned the APTT room in Brody that opened earlier this year.

“We’ve gotten a lot of visitors, like 150 to 200 so far,” she said. “Everyone’s always in Brody, so it’s really easy to go there and just have a study break.”

At the HelWell table, students could pick up candy, fidget spinners and condoms and learn about the resources and services offered by HelWell. Johnette Sandy, insurance and referral outreach specialist for the Counseling Center, explained that students often aren’t aware of HelWell’s resources, especially the insurance plans HelWell offers.

“We generally don’t consider insurance until it becomes a problem,” she said. “Students aren’t too aware of that, so that’s why my role is to... let them know what insurance is, what benefits they have, what services we have to offer.”

Sandy elaborated that many students have the mentality that nothing bad can happen to them, leading them to neglect their physical health. As part of an effort to increase awareness, HelWell provided information sheets detailing the most common services students used last year. 

These services, according to the info sheet, include immunizations, contraception, screening for sexually transmitted infections and routine physicals. During the 2017-2018 school year, the info sheet read, HelWell saw 5,406 unique patients over a total of 15,013 clinic visits.

Other info sheets informed students about available vision and dental insurance plans, which Sandy said many students aren’t aware the University offers. 

“Students requested to have dental and vision as part of their plan,” she said. “So we answered.”

According to Sandy, HelWell also offers referrals to community health-care providers as well as drop-in hours where students can come in without scheduling an appointment.

Students like freshman Tony Jung decided to stop by Well-Fest after seeing the sachets and stress balls CHEW was handing out.

“I saw a bunch of stuff and it looked cool,” he said.

Freshman Sarah Jung said that while she wasn’t sure if the sachet would do anything to improve her mental health, she found it soothing.

Both Tony Jung and Sarah Jung feel that while many Hopkins students struggle, groups like Stressbusters and APTT help create a positive culture around health and wellness.

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