I Will Listen

Mental Health Week offers students safety and connection

From February 19 through 23, Lenoir-Rhyne held its first annual Mental Health Week – themed “I Will Listen” – a collaborative effort between the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and a dozen other campus offices and organizations.

A staff member bonds with a therapy dog in Cromer Center

“This initiative grew out of students sharing their needs with us – hearing and responding to student needs is a priority for everyone in the Office of Student Life,” said Walter Kennedy, area coordinator and coordinator of fraternity and sorority life, who took point in organizing Mental Health Week. 

“Our fraternities and sororities already work closely with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as part of their philanthropic efforts,” he added. “So, it was a good fit for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to partner with NAMI on all the events and then join departments around campus to create this amazing week of events for all faculty, staff and students.”

Students greet a therapy dog in Cromer Center

Any day that begins with therapy dogs can indeed be described as amazing, so Mental Health Week kicked off on Monday with a visit from Tux, Bo and their doggy friends in the Cromer Center. In addition, students had a chance to build their own personal Zen gardens with members of the Campus Activities Board (CAB).

“To me, good mental health means feeling safe, connected, open to the full range of human emotions, and feeling confident in my ability to handle life's challenges with the right supports in place,” said India McWhorter, M.A. ’22, a mental health counselor at Cornerstone Counseling and Wellness.

Students play giant Connect Four in the Play Pin

On Tuesday, the events continued with options for letting off steam and finding inner peace. The Cromer Center lobby became the Play Pin, a space dedicated to literal fun and games. Students seeking a quieter headspace could move into the Hickory Room for Falun Dafa meditation, a practice rooted in the Buddhist tradition and led by Marisa Hsu, Ph.D., assistant professor of Chinese and history. 

To nourish both body as well as the mind, Aramark and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. joined on Wednesday to bring smoothies to the Cromer Center, drawing a crowd eager to get their daily servings of fruit.

“The smoothies have been my favorite event of the week,” said politics major Marlesia Walker ’24. “But the best thing about this whole week has been seeing the representation for all students, making sure everyone is welcome, and their voices are heard.”

Student prays with University Pastor Todd Cutter.

Programming for Thursday focused on bringing students together, sharing and building campus community and interpersonal support. A group prayer session was held for students, faculty and staff of all faith traditions to join and write petitions entitled, “LR, Together We Pray.” The session closed with a prayer from University Pastor, the Rev. Todd Cutter. 

The largest-scale event took place on Thursday evening with an Open Mic Night at Joe’s Coffee, followed by a performance from the After Party Band, which also served as the house band for open mic performers. Supporting mental health through sharing ideas and promoting creative expression, the evening included a mix of music and spoken word. 

Students at Open Mic night in Joe's Coffee

“I’m really excited about it, and I’ve talked to a lot of people who are excited about coming out. There’s going to be poetry and singing, and my fraternity – Omega Psi Phi – is hosting it,” said sports management major Dylan Foster ’24 in the days leading up to the event. “Mental health is about taking care of your body, mind and soul, and making sure that at the end of the day you’re OK with all the decisions you made.”

The week came to a close with the impactful “A Day Without Headphones” – a day that centers on a pledge for students to take off headphones and remove earbuds in order to better listen one another. 

Smoothie bar serving students

“Headphones and earbuds are great for keeping us entertained, but they can also isolate us from one another,” said Kennedy. “The Day Without Headphones gives us a chance to unplug from that technology and reconnect with one another, to hear when other members of our community need our support.”

The multiple events hosted throughout the week were made possible thanks to sponsorship by Cornerstone Counseling and Wellness, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, National Panhellenic Conference, the Office of Student Life, CAB, Aramark, Joe’s Coffee, Alpha Delta Psi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., the Office of Spiritual Life, NAMI and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. 

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