Lehman Counseling Center Increases Campus Presence with Group Initiatives

By Kathryn Fornier

The Lehman College Counseling Center logo. Photo courtesy of the Lehman website.

This semester, Lehman’s Counseling Center has opened its doors to a wide variety of student groups and workshops in an effort to build a safe, supportive space for students.

Currently, there are 11 groups at the Counseling Center targeting mental health and wellness. Karen Smith Moore, the Director of the Counseling Center commented, “Students fill out a questionnaire and the counselors and I develop the groups based on survey feedback from students.”  She added, “I think everyone can benefit from self-care…wellness and taking care of their emotional well-being, so we try to develop a range of groups that will support students.”

There is a Mindful Cooking and Eating group, hosted every Tuesday at noon, which teaches students how to decrease their spending on food while using stress free recipes, which are simple and easy to follow cooking instructions with minimal ingredients. Attendees can also find ingredients for healthy meals at the group meetings. “The counseling center purchases the food and it is a part of a campaign and health and wellness initiative called Healthy Lehman” explained Moore.

On Wednesdays, mats for stretching and meditation are offered to those who attend the yoga group. Lehman senior Ismelda Liz, a Sociology major, commented, “They really set the mood, they dim the lights and put music. With the music and the aromatherapy it really comes together…It’s really no-experience needed…[we do] stretches that are comfortable for people.”

Counselor Hawa Niangado explained that the groups also serve as an opportunity to explore and build new relationships. She noted that the Art Therapy group she leads has some of the highest attendance numbers, attracting both returning members and newcomers. “The first year that I did this it was a lot of new students…but [students] have come back again,” she said. “Because it was so successful, the following semester we decided to have two groups with one on Thursday and one on Friday.” 

The other groups offered are the Meditation Group, Worry Warriors, Digital Media Therapy, Healthy U, Keeping Your Cool, Multicultural Group, Stress Less, and U Connect. Their availability on campus helps students manage the expectations of their home lives, friends, and even themselves. 

This is important given statistics indicating that student mental health is an increasing issue on campuses nationally. According to a 2017 Healthy Minds survey, 94 percent of 8,000 first-year students with depression from 48 campuses reported that their mental health difficulties had impaired their academic performance. 

Students have a lot of stressors to deal with that can be triggers of depression. In a 2017 article “Depression and College Students” for the journal Healthline, Michael Kerr writes, “Many students are unprepared for university life. Today’s students face high debt. They also have fewer job prospects after graduation than previous generations.”

David Rosenberg, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, agrees a 2018 article for The Conversation titled, “1 in 5 college students have anxiety or depression. Here’s why”. He states that of the main causes of depression and anxiety, “social media and technology are among the most dangerous of these factors. Excessive use of each tends to engender impaired social interactions and an increased sense of isolation.”

To combat these factors, Moore said, “We at the Counseling Center do all kinds of things in individual sessions, group sessions, class presentations, and workshops arranged to give awareness to mental health topics. We also do outreach and campus wide events.” She added, “All our services are free and confidential and in a safe environment.” 

Jasmine Galloway, a sophomore psychology major at Lehman who uses the counseling center services, said, “I find the groups offered to be super helpful and I recommend people should at least visit once.”