Caring for St. Lawrence Students
“We provide a lot more than a 50-minute therapy session,” Tara Tent says. “We build a kind of safety net by connecting students to the additional services they need.”
Tent holds a Master’s Degree in counseling and is now the R. Sheldon ’68, Virginia H. Johnson Director of Health, and Counseling Services at St. Lawrence.
She stresses that the University’s counseling services are confidential. Students can, however, give a counselor permission to advocate for them across campus.
“With the student’s consent,” she says, “St. Lawrence counselors collaborate with faculty, academic advising, student life, residence life, accessibility services/special needs, athletics and coaches, and with a student’s mental health practitioner back home. And we do all this in hopes of helping our students make healthy decisions, manage their physical and mental health, and stay on track, academically.”
The basics of health involve managing sleep, diet, and exercise. Many students are learning how to do this, some for the first time.
“Getting a handle on these things,” Tent adds, “really helps people manage their emotions.”
If students need help with this, however, they’re encouraged to talk with Tent or her colleagues at the University’s Diana B. Torrey ’82 Health and Counseling Center.
“Here, students can talk about what they’re experiencing,” she says. “As counselors, we hear students’ reactions to things that happen on campus and in society at large. Over the past few years—in just about every population across the country—there’s been a dramatic increase in anxiety and depression. That includes college campuses.”
With financial support from the late David L. Torrey ’53, Sarah Johnson ’82, P’15, and other donors, St. Lawrence was able to hire additional staff and expand counseling services on campus. Shortly after that, the spread of COVID-19 disrupted school, work, and socializing. For some, this intensified those feelings of anxiety, depression, and loss.
“During spring semester,” Tent says, “the transition to remote learning also upended the social lives of many of our students. “Yes, it was necessary and the right thing to do, but students still missed their friends, their on-campus lives, including professors and all the things that make up their St. Lawrence experience. And home can be fraught, too. So, when students left campus, we switched to tele-counseling.”
It took some adapting, she adds, but it quickly turned into a valuable resource for students and the counselors who were able to continue helping them.
Now, St. Lawrence offers student counseling in-person and over the phone. It is challenging, financially and logistically, to continue offering these services. They are, however, an indication of the high value St. Lawrence places on care.
“This is who we are,” Tent says. “As a community, we care about each other. We may come together for different reasons, but our compassion for each other holds us together.”
A Clear Demonstration of Caring Laurentians
The depth and breadth—and the high quality—of mental healthcare on campus are direct results of two factors:
1) The compassion of the Laurentian community, and
2) Generous financial support from the Torrey Family, Johnson Family, and others. Over the past five years of The Campaign for Every Laurentian, St. Lawrence has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand in-person counseling services—and, this year, tele-counseling services for our students.
The impact of this work can be seen across campus, in the University’s leading graduation and retention rates, and the success of St. Lawrence students and graduates.
Continued financial support is needed to maintain wellness services and to expand our offerings with:
• Added availability of mental-health counseling to students, including night and weekend hours
• Bringing experienced counseling specialists to campus who can help students with nutrition, academic performance, stress reduction, and other issues specific to student needs
• Training for students interested in offering peer-to-peer support or mentoring
• Availability of biofeedback software that students can use to learn more about their physical reactions to stress and how to manage those reactions
Every Laurentian can help in this critical time. To learn more about supporting student counseling services at St. Lawrence, please email University Advancement at email@example.com.