While the year 2020 left a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth of many for a plethora of reasons, one message was made quite clear through it all: mental health matters. As more cities, schools and buildings begin to open up, there are a variety of feelings that people are experiencing.
As college students, this can be a lot to handle on top of the tumultuous season of life these four years present. Luckily, Northwestern students are not alone during these hard times. The Wellness Center, located in the Rowenhorst Student Center right across from the Hub, offers a variety of mental health services to full-time students at NW.
“We seek to support the student body in overcoming problems and increasing mental health,” said Dr. Sally Oakes Edman, Director of Counseling at the Wellness Center. “We want to promote relational, spiritual and academic success, to maximize each student’s functioning in order to enable them to take full advantage of their NW education, connect knowledge and experience, flourish socially and be well poised to respond to God’s call.”
Established in 2000, the Wellness Center has experienced much change and adapted to what the needs of students are at the time, but their central mission has stayed the same: helping students succeed at finding wholeness in all areas of life. In years past, the Wellness Center has offered both mental and physical health services, but since the implementation of Orange City Area Health System’s walk-in clinic, located next to Holland Plaza Movie Theater, the Wellness Center has shifted their services strictly to mental health counseling. However, students are more than welcome to walk in at any time and use the massage chair, free of charge.
The Wellness Center is currently staffed with three licensed mental health counselors, who are aided by Suzanne Haverdink as an administrative assistant.
On top of adjusting their in-person services provided since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wellness Center has learned how to use teletherapy to their advantage during these variable times.
“I thought I would really hate teletherapy but was surprised to find it quite personal and functional,” said Edman. “While our waiting room was awfully quiet, overall we were very busy and felt like we were able to continue to do our work well, just in a slightly new way.”
These virtual services are still available to students if they prefer to receive therapy in this mode as opposed to in-person. Edman also said that while many students aren’t facing issues directly from COVID-related incidents, there is still a lot of anxiety, depression and social discomfort that have risen out of disruptions caused by the pandemic.
“I think the pandemic has made people more aware about the importance of mental health and the need for taking care of it. It’s definitely talked more about in the news and on social media,” said Haverdink.
The Wellness Center holds itself to a high standard when it comes to patient privacy and wants students to know that the office is a safe space for anyone who walks in. The environment is warm and welcoming, fully devoted to the flourishing of every student on campus.
“What I enjoy most about working here is the opportunity to get to know so many students, to hear their goals and dreams as well as areas of hurt and to play a part in their healing and growth,” said Edman. “I love discovering the individual story of each student’s life and walking alongside them. I learn so much from the students I work with and am privileged to be able to witness God’s healing work in their lives.”