The influence that mental health has over a person’s emotional, psychological, and sociological well-being is crucial, which is why Barnard foregrounds health services with abundant campus resources.
The Feel Well, Do Well @ Barnard (FWDW) campaign, launched in 2019 by President Sian Leah Beilock and the Health and Wellness Department, provides accessible health services for students’ overall well-being, and the upcoming Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being will provide a centralized hub for FWDW programs and will assist students with physical, mental, and financial wellness.
In recognition of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (July), we turned to two campus experts — Christy DaBreo-Otero, associate director of referrals and outreach at the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center, and Julien Almonte, Furman Center’s psychologist and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) liaison — to learn more about wellness resources on campus and how to participate in this year’s theme of community-building and reproductive justice. See their responses below:
What resources are the Furman Center offering in recognition of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month?
Christy DaBreo-Otero: Furman Counseling Center is committed to increasing access to mental health services, decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health, and continuing to educate ourselves and the Barnard community on mental health concerns impacting ethnic minority communities.
Julien Almonte: Furman has several resources already on our website for BIPOC students that focus on mental health and wellness. We are working to expand the list of resources available and, in addition to resources, include relevant YouTube content and, potentially, handouts and infographics. While that’s our goal for this month, we also hope to continue to reach students through social media (@furmanatbarnard) in this upcoming year.
I’m personally excited in my role as BIPOC liaison to work on connecting with student organizations to build and strengthen relationships and to help student communities feel heard. The hope is to attend to their needs appropriately and help them navigate challenges that arise, while taking care of themselves and their communities. I aim to be accessible to students in this role throughout the year.
How can community members who want to participate in the College’s theme this year of community-building and reproductive justice be of service?
DaBreo-Otero: To facilitate community building, we recommend looking at websites of campus partners — The Wellness Spot Health Promotion Program, Student Experience & Engagement, Community Engagement & Inclusion — and their social media accounts to be aware of upcoming events and projects for collaboration, taking time to listen to others on campus, modeling compassion by doing acts of kindness for yourself and others, and participating in campus events.
To learn more about reproductive justice resources, please continue to check our website for updates. We also encourage you to review the list of resources listed on websites of the Wellness Spot and the Reproductive Justice collective.
What is reproductive justice, and what is its connection to mental health for women of color?
DaBreo-Otero: The framework for reproductive justice focuses on the economic, social, political, and systemic barriers that influence equitable access to services for sexual and reproductive care. Reproductive justice creates space for people of marginalized groups to make informed decisions about their bodies, family planning, and parenting. The lack of access to services can have a disparate impact on the mental health of women of color, contributing to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Women of color also experience structural and systemic inequities that affect their healthcare experiences and utility of reproductive services. It is important that clinics, hospitals, and community-based centers are equipped with the appropriate screening materials to assess mental health concerns, offer spaces for open dialogue, encourage bodily autonomy, and continue to be aware of and challenge the power dynamic inherent in the healthcare system.
Almonte: We intend to bring back the Women of Color group this fall 2022, which has been on hiatus in recent years. We hope to create a safe space where BIPOC-identified students can co-create a community that focuses on healing and empowerment. Topics that often come up in these spaces include reproductive justice, body liberation, and self-care.
Is there anything else that should be added about the work that the College is doing?
DaBreo-Otero: Furman Counseling Center works in tandem with the College’s mission regarding social justice and wellness. We intend to continue to create spaces of support where individuals and groups can share their unique needs. We invite you to review our website and follow us on social media for outreach events, activities, and resources for coping.
Almonte: There will also be opportunities for students to share their feedback with us. We hope to interact with students through outreach events, social media, and potentially focus groups. Collaborating with staff and students is important to us! Please reach out to email@example.com for outreach suggestions.
DaBreo-Otero: Furman Counseling understands that wellness is subjective and constantly evolving. We encourage you to take time to cultivate wellness in your own way that works for you. We are here to support you and provide you with resources to guide you in your journey!
—ZUYU SHEN ’24