Over the course of several months, Herkimer College put together the Zen Den, a wellness space designed to offer students a calm, quiet environment to study, relax, or take part in a number of calming activities which opened in late March, 2023.
The Zen Den was made as a response by the Herkimer College counseling center to the growing trend of college students across the country reporting increased levels of stress and other significant mental health challenges. According to the Healthy Minds Survey, a national study held in 2021, nearly 75% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem.
In a time like today, mental health assistance has never been more important, but it can be difficult to find; however, Herkimer College’s Counseling Center has been offering students free, confidential, non-judgmental consultation for over thirty years.
“We hope that the Counseling Center has taught students that there is a space on campus that exists just for them, to hear what they are experiencing, help them problem solve, and share in their joys and troubles,” counselor Kaitlyn LaPolla explains, “we also hope that our education efforts through tabling events or other programming have helped normalize taking care of our mental health at all points, not just when things are feeling difficult or there is a crisis.”
What started as a single personal counselor in 1993 has grown into a network of numerous mental health professionals, passionate students, and Jane the trained therapy dog, giving students the opportunity to not only work through their issues with a trusted professional, but also connect students with whatever resources they may need to succeed both on campus and beyond.
The opening of the Zen Den is just one of many resources offered by the Counseling Center for students to focus on their mental health needs.
The Counseling Center has also given students who find themselves particularly invested in mental health awareness the opportunity to spread their message with the Active Minds club. Run by students, the Active Minds club makes strides to educate peers about mental health, as well as connecting them with important resources. The primary goal of the Active Minds club is to reduce the societal stigma related to mental health.
Ultimately, the Counseling Center aims to better the quality of life at an all-time high point of stress in the lives of college students. “[The Counseling Center] plans to stay true to our mission statement and continue to provide the best services we can to our students.” LaPolla states, “always looking for different ways to enhance supportive efforts, programming, and meet the needs of the students.”