Over $70,000 awarded to Thomas College for mental health resources

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT
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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - The past few years have highlighted the importance of mental health among students.

“I think coming through Covid, we have seen a lot more students coming in. We were all isolated, people didn’t have social opportunities for social connections,” Lisa Desautels-Poliquin, Thomas College dean of student affairs said.

Thomas College reported a 20% increase in the number of scheduled counseling appointments in 2022 compared to 2021.

Counselor Carol Jollotta says it’s due to a variety of factors.

“For a lot of students, coming to college is the first time they can independently decide that they are going to get help.” Jollotta said.

Another factor is adjusting to a new setting.

“Probably the three top issues that we see students coping with is anxiety, depression, and relationship struggles,” Jollotta said.

Desautels-Poliquin says they were awarded three grants totaling over $70,000 to promote student behavioral health.

One was from the Maine Health Access Foundation.

“That’s $30,000 for us. We will be really able to leverage it and provide two what I think are significant opportunities. The first is to be able to use 20,000 of that to partner with the JED Foundation in order to become a JED campus.” Desautels-Poliquin said.

While the college has always taken mental health seriously, they had the opportunity to hear firsthand from students through an experiment.

“In the spring of 2021, we had some students participate in our president’s innovation challenge to help us to problem solve, and we had three students at the time look at the issues of mental health,” Desautels-Poliquin said.

The challenge involves listening to students like Senior Olivia Rowe, a co-lead on the mental health program.

“For me, I’m really passionate about mental health, and I think that it is huge issue, and a huge obstacle to tackle, just the stigma around mental health, and so, I think this is a great opportunity to actually get out there and address those issues and also come up with programs and other resources that students need,” Rowe said.

That’s what they’re hoping the grant funding will do.

“Using these grant funds is instrumental in providing even better support to our current students and students going forward for many years,” Jollotta said.

“My biggest thing is just you’re not alone. Everyone’s there with you whether they say it or not, whether they’re open about it or not. And we do have almost every single faculty and staff here that cares and is here to listen and also provide those resources, whether it’s our counselors here at Thomas, or some hotlines or just other programs out there in the state of Maine,” Rowe said.

Rowe said.