By Makayela Isbell ’20
Gordon’s Holistic Health Initiative has officially kicked off this semester after a year and a half of development and planning.
The initiative is aimed at “helping students, faculty, and staff understand how they can better their health and how college resources can help them do that… through destigmatizing conversations about mental health so that [people] can feel more open about asking for help,” according to HHI creator Jennifer Meakem ‘19.
The HHI Team also includes Assistant Dean of Residence Life, Michael Curtis, Road Hall Resident Director, Sarah J. Welch, Electa Sutton ‘21, and Ashley Fazzino.
HHI uses the pinwheel as its logo because it has five parts, each standing for the five domains of health: physical, mental, social, academic, and spiritual, Meakem said.
Meakem also said that a key point of this program is that students, faculty, and staff have a “general understanding of resources that are available and that there is a willingness to talk about [holistic health].”
Meakem, an Economics and Spanish double major, said she originally came to college with a large support system. However, she found herself needing more help than that support system could offer her.
This lead Meakem to look around Gordon for support, but said she “encountered misconceptions” and some places where help was “hard to get,” although she was able to find the resources she sought after in the end.
Meakem added that “this process made [her] wonder if students knew that help was readily available.” She said she began to talk with Curtis as well as Dean of Student Success, Chris Carlson, to brainstorm ideas of how to better inform students about holistic health.
When asked about resources on campus, Meakem noted that Resident Advisors, Resident Directors, the Academic Support center, the new Wellness Coordinator, the Health Center, and the Counseling Office are all readily available resources for students.
In regards to the Holistic Health Initiative program, which celebrated a Holistic Health Week complete with a Holistic Health Fair last month, Meakem said that it is “definitely not one and done,” adding that it will “end up permanent” and with a focus week every year, including mental health workshops that will take place in dorms.
Curtis said that the HHI team hopes to cycle through the five domains of health in the coming years. Curtis said that the five different aspects of health are “interconnected, and we are trying to support people as whole persons.”
Curtis said that it has been “a pleasure to walk alongside [Meakem], who is really passionate about a certain area, and see a whole program develop out of that.”
Curtis believes that this program is bringing attention to new and existing resources. He said that by raising awareness, they are also interested in “creating culture”. Curtis quoted J.R. Briggs, a former chapel speaker, and said “[We want Gordon] to be a place that is safe for students to open up about things they are dealing with and [a place that is] safe to ask questions, and to pursue growth.”
The Holistic Health Initiative’s website, which can be found at holistichealth.gordon.edu, has new content, resources, and articles available to students. Meakem compared the website to “one-stop shopping,” in that the accessibility of the website can eliminate having to search for help on various other websites.
Meakem emphasized that there is a “willingness [from staff and faculty] to listen to students and care about people individually.”