From March 25 to April 1, the College of William and Mary’s Committee of Mental Health and Wellness Committee hosted its annual “Love Your Body Week,” designed to raise awareness of eating disorders and body image at the College.
All week, students representing the Collegiate Awareness Regarding Eating Smart team set up tables in the Sadler Center offering information about eating disorders and dealing with issues of body image.
“I think ‘Love Your Body Week’ has definitely had a positive influence, at least on getting people to be more conscious of themselves this week,” CARES volunteer Katie Wood ’14 said.
Each day, students and faculty participated in events spanning the entire campus, each focusing on a different aspect of body image awareness. Events included a brisk morning fitness walk with College President Taylor Reveley, a “love your body fair” a “Celebrating Our Bodies” dance showcase and a student panel on eating disorders.
In August 2010, CARES merged with the Mental Health Task Force to create the Mental Health and Wellness Committee, designed to better address a wide range of health issues by promoting outreach and distributing valuable resources to students.
Working together with the College’s Health and Counseling Centers and groups like Health Outreach Peer Educators, the committee, as the name suggests, looks to address both mental and physical components of student wellness.
“Our goal is to provide the William and Mary community with up to date and reliable health information,” HOPE President Jackie Pembleton ’12 said. “As an accountable resource to the community, we strive to facilitate an on going dialogue about health issues.”
The issue of mental health is often misunderstood, Pembleton explained.
“Mental health is not just the absence of an illness, but also the presence of overall well-being,” she said.
As part of its program, the mental health branch of HOPE offers a series of 15 minute presentations, covering mental health and depression, better sleep, and stress management. Starting April 11, HOPE will be hosting an on-campus awareness week called “Depression Counts.”
However, some students say that the College needs more than student groups to properly address issues of mental health.
“The school shouldn’t rely on student outreach things in substitution for an adequate counseling center,” Andrew Ray ’13 said.
Ray also shared his thoughts about mental health issues among college students.
“The school in general can sometimes invoke an anxious atmosphere, or perpetuate an anxious and hectic student mindset,” he said.
Such a mindset is not confined to the College, however.
“It’s not like a William and Mary-specific thing,” Ray said. “It’s more a human thing and it comes to surface when people come to an academic setting.”