This Wednesday, Hope College is suspending classes for a day to give students a chance to engage with serious topics at the Critical Issues Symposium. The symposium this year is centered on the topic of mental health, which is an increasingly common and concerning issue on college campuses. According to the American Psychological Association, “95% of college counseling directors [surveyed] said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern in their centers or on campus.” Classes have been dismissed in order to encourage and allow students the opportunity to attend the events. The symposium will include multiple panels and events, including a showing of the hit Disney film “Inside Out” (Tuesday, October 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bultman Student Center Great Room) and features talks from four different speakers—all coordinated by Hope students for Hope Students.
Taking place in the spacious Jack Miller Auditorium, the first event of the day will commence promptly at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, beginning with a brief introduction delivered by one of Hope’s very own student directors. Then, from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., a series of lectures—on wellbeing, the difference between an individualist or supportive approach to achieving wellness and the global effects of COVID-19 on collective mental health—will be delivered by Dr. Girija Kaimal, after which students will have a break time for lunch and the opportunity to view an art exhibit, located in the Kruizenga Art Museum.
Following the break, volunteers will be available to guide students to the respected breakout group of their choosing, taking place from 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. The groups offered include:
- Environmental Wellbeing (with Hope Advocates for Sustainability): How do our interactions with the natural world impact mental health?
Location: Martha Miller 135
- Physical Wellbeing (with Dr. Brian Rider): How will developing healthy habits today not only add years to your life but enhance the enjoyment and quality of those years?
Location: Dow Courts
- Social/Cultural Wellbeing (with Jevon Willis and Residential Life Staff): In what ways has there been social inclusion/exclusion of people with mental illness in the past? How can we seek to solve disparities in mental health treatment among different socioeconomic classes and racial groups? How does culture impact mental health?
Location: Jack Miller Auditorium
- Policy (with Markets & Morality speaker Jaimie Cavanaugh, Litigator with Institute for Justice): What can policy makers do to help in the area of mental health care? How did current mental health policies get to where they are today? What can we do as a society in regards to implementation of beneficial public policy?
Location: Maas Auditorium
Finally, students will regroup in the Jack Miller Auditorium, where CAPS director, Bill Russner, will wrap up the day’s events, concluding with an informational speech. This will offer an opportunity for students to ask their lingering questions, and a final note from student speaker, Danait Yonas, will officially close the event around 3:45 p.m.
A comprehensive schedule of the day’s events can also be accessed here.
As stated by Hope college’s Interim Provost, Gerald D. Griffin, and Student Congress Critical Issues Symposium Task Force Chair, Katherine Kalthoff, “The purpose of this year’s Critical Issues Symposium is to provide a space for the Hope College community to engage in meaningful dialogue regarding the issue of mental health and wellbeing in our society and in the lives of undergraduate students. The Critical Issues Symposium is designed to embody the holistic education that Hope strives to offer. Learning about mental health and wellbeing is increasingly important to our development as people, not just as gradable students at the college level. This will include academically focused lectures, wellbeing workshops, and engaging activities for the community to participate in, all of which will draw us together in the spirit of curiosity and understanding.”
Attendance of the event is highly encouraged by many Hope College professors, staff members, and students alike, going as far as to cancel classes for the day, as the benefits extracted from the information shared at the event can be applicable to everyone. Coordinated mainly by Hope students who understand the pressures and expectations their peers experience alongside them, the content offered is likely to be beneficial to any and all students, raising awareness and extending information, resources and support.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health concerns, Hope College offers free and confidential support through the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Department. Their offices are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Bultman Student Center. They can be reached at (616.395.7945) to schedule an appointment (virtual or in-person). More information about the resources provided by CAPS can be accessed at https://hope.edu/offices/counseling-psychological-services/index.html