Students on a mental health walk

At Barnard, understanding how to cultivate strong mental health is so seamlessly built into the College’s infrastructure that it is a priority for everyone, including the president. Anxiety is a topic that President Sian Leah Beilock has studied deeply over the course of her career, including with Barnard students at her lab. She has written about mentally choking in academics, work, and sports, as well as on the mind and body connection and how mastering it can foster joy, safety, and success. 

“Even something as simple as jotting down your worries before a test can help download them from your mind so that they're less likely to pop up in the moment,” President Beilock told Natalie Angier ʼ78, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times science columnist, in 2017. “Sometimes it’s just knowing that those sweaty palms and beating heart are not necessarily signs you’re going to fail, but actually are important. [They’re] helping to shunt nutrients to your body and your brain so you can think and perform at your best. Thinking differently about how you can perform actually changes your performance.”

To that end, the College recognizes World Mental Health Day (October 10) every year with web articles, events, and student-centric projects and also offers programs throughout the year to steadily expand on the ethos of prioritizing well-being. 

Below: Students take time for a wellness walk through Riverside Park on National Women’s Health and Fitness Day (September 28).

In 2019, for example, the College launched Feel Well, Do Well @ Barnard (FWDW), a campus-wide initiative that promotes physical, mental, sexual, and emotional health. The following year, President Beilock announced the creation of the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being, which will provide a centralized hub for Barnard’s many wellness initiatives, including FWDW, and state-of-the-art spaces for financial fluency and wellness programs. And in 2021, Marina Catallozzi, M.D., MSCE, became Barnard’s inaugural Vice President of Health and Wellness and Chief Health Officer, overseeing the Primary Care Health Service, the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center, and other health and wellness programs.

“The idea of the Feel Well, Do Well initiative and the Francine LeFrak Center is to provide built-in scaffolding for people as they develop the skills that they’ll bring to the workplace and for them to be able to support their own wellness as they deal with challenges in the future,” Catallozzi told Barnard Magazine. “Critical to this framework is the lens of diversity and inclusion — and ensuring that everyone has access to these resources.” 

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On October 10, the Wellness Spot, Barnard’s Health Promotion Program, and the Furman Counseling Center will host a drop-in event for students during office hours (see flyer, left) to encourage them to take time out for themselves. They will be able to learn self-guided relaxation and mindfulness exercises and can settle into the DIY relaxation kit station to make their own body and lip scrubs, foot soaks, and more. 

Formerly known as Well-Woman, the Wellness Spot, directed by Cristen Kennedy, “supports wellness as an integral component of learning” by facilitating workshops, peer-to-peer programs, and offering an abundance of wellness resources, from books to brochures, and counseling on reproductive health.

At the Furman Counseling Center, a fixture on campus since 2002, thousands of students who have struggled with mental and emotional health have received confidential help — in person and online — from a robust staff of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and interns in these fields. Led by Mary Commerford, the center addresses an array of important issues, such as eating and body image challenges, identity development, grief and loss, BIPOC identity development, wellness and healing, and much more.

“If you’re worried about a classmate, you can refer them to Furman, let a dean or advisor know, or tell someone in Res Life,” said Mary Commerford, director of Furman Counseling. “Putting students on our radar [who are struggling] doesn’t get them in trouble. It helps connect them to a network of support.” Commerford offered this advice in 2020 on World Mental Health Day, and it remains true today. 

Students taking a moment for themselves, and each other, on Futter Field

Beyond Barnard’s programs, initiatives, and offices, the campus itself sparks joy in students, as Rachel Peck ’12 told HerCampus in 2011. “I enjoy a beautiful traditional campus … in the middle of Manhattan,” said Peck, then a senior. “As much as I love NYC, I also love my campus neighborhood, libraries, Res Halls, bars, Greek houses, and green space. I never felt like I had to completely give up ‘the college experience’ for four years in the most vibrant city in the world.” 

Indeed, the College remains dedicated to offering students an abundance of health and wellness resources on campus — to help them thrive any and everywhere.

Visit the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being webpage to learn more about Barnard College’s soon-to-be renovated spaces within Barnard Hall. 

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