Mental health days at Le Moyne College are few and far between. So few, after a long fight between the Student Government Association and college administration, the students have been granted with only one day off nearly a month down the road.
Students are worried that their concerns regarding mental health are not being used to make change on campus. After the tragic loss of Le Moyne student Cory Gallinger, students began to both grieve and advocate for mental health on campus.
On the morning of Monday, March 22, students protested for their mental health concerns to be heard by administration. The night before this protest, a petition was created with the intentions of making these concerns clear. The petition, titled “Le Moyne Administration: Address Mental Health NOW!” was created by James Corl, Freshman SGA Representative.
On Tuesday, March 23, Le Moyne offered two Open Fora for students to meet with President Linda LeMura, Provost Joe Marina S.J., and a member of the Student Development Team. It was here that the words of Annie Trang, who is in her last semester here, really stood out.
Trang voiced her concerns regarding the way Le Moyne deals with the mental health of students of color on campus. After the forum, I reached out to Trang in regards to her comments and asked her to expand on what she had said.
Last semester, Trang did a cultural study on mental health in ethnic minorities, specifically studying depression. “Culture leaves an unquestionable engraving on our emotions, including the way we express and feel towards certain experiences, how we may react, and methods of coping,” she explains. “So for Le Moyne to have only three white, female counselors would prove to be difficult for them to understand someone coming from a different ethnic background.”
Trang mentions how important it is for Le Moyne to prioritize diversity to create a better environment for all students. She proposes that having a POC staff member and a male counselor would add diversity to the community of counselors for the students. Trang emphasizes that students of color are not represented and advocated for enough on campus, and that professors and staff need to listen to students of color and take them seriously.
Trang discussed how she has felt frustrated and alone during her time at Le Moyne in regards to her mental health. In a statement to Le Moyne’s administrators, she says, “please, listen to your students when they are calling out to you asking for you to understand,” and adds, “be proactive in preventing ‘sad news’ instead of reacting to things as they come.”
The recent passing of Cory Gallinger struck the emotions of students who were personally connected to him, or connected to other students Le Moyne College has lost in recent years. Meghan McGurl, a member of the Class of 2023, recalls her time with Stefano Galante before his passing.
“He was my best friend,” says McGurl. “He was such a fun person. I don’t know one person that met him that ever had an issue with him.”
After his passing, Le Moyne did not offer McGurl the support she needed. “They did nothing for me,” she says. “I got an email and that was about it.” She also spoke on how she struggled to make an appointment with a counselor at the Wellness Center; it would take two weeks to set up an appointment, which isn’t helpful for a student who needs help sooner than that.
McGurl recalls a “Mental Health Awareness Program” she tried to start on campus following Galante’s death, however, she was told by an administrator it would be “too expensive.” She wants to see a change in the way mental health is addressed and dealt with on campus. “Enough is enough,” she says.
Following the events on campus, an Instagram account under the name “@lmcmentalhealth” popped up, with the intentions of advocating for mental health awareness on campus for students, from the perspective of a student. The owner of this account has asked to remain anonymous, however, I was able to ask her a little bit regarding this account.
After her own struggles with mental health, and a loss connected to mental health, she felt compelled to advocate for mental health awareness on campus. She wants students to know that people are there for them, and she hopes to make a club dedicated to mental health in the future as another resource for students to utilize.
Her goals for the future of this page are to continue advocating, allowing students to share their stories, and once the mental health club has begun, she will be posting information regarding that as well. A student run page and club will hopefully help ease the discomfort students might feel when trying to share their concerns with adults and administration.
“Without students this wouldn’t be a college,” she says. “It seems as though before it was more of a business than a community.” She acknowledges that she feels Le Moyne is finally listening to their students, and shares a few ideas of resources to add to campus, including 24/7 Wellness Center hours, teachers and students trained to help others with mental health, inclusivity in the counseling staff, advocating for mental health more on campus, resources for Alumni, regular mental health check-ups, and potentially having one trained professional living in each resident hall.
I reached out to Danny Bonsangue, Student Government Association President, who shared some ideas regarding changes on campus. Bonsangue acknowledges how much Le Moyne’s Administration cares for the students, but he feels that, “Now that you promised something, you have to deliver.”
Bonsangue also adds, “we need 24/7 counseling services, a counselor of color, at least one psychologist, a space designated for commuters on campus—which we’ve been promised for years—and an overhaul of how we talk about mental health.”
These changes of things needed on campus are not just concerns he has; many students would also agree to this list of things needed. Bonsangue also points out the pandemic’s effect on people’s mental health, and ideas regarding changes to make students feel less socially isolated.
“I’d also like to see games and food outside all the time on nice days for people to get away from everything,” he suggests, which is an idea that has high potential for easing stressful days on campus.
Bonsangue makes a final statement regarding mental health, and how when people are struggling, the first person they would choose to go to would likely be someone they knew. “That’s why all professors and as many students as possible should have the mental health first aid training that RAs do,” he adds, an idea with potential for a great outcome and a positive impact on the mental health of students.
While concerns have contributed to an uneasy feeling among students, I was able to reach out to Le Moyne College’s President Linda LeMura regarding mental health and the future of mental health at Le Moyne, with the hopes that her words might help ease these feelings of worry.
“We love our students and we are here for them,” Dr. LeMura says, “We will continue to engage with students and all members of our community to discuss their needs and how we can further care for and sustain one another, in the embodiment of our values.”
Dr. LeMura mentions some changes taking place on campus as a result of student concerns, including “increasing our investment in and commitment to our students’ mental health and well-being” and immediately expanding Le Moyne’s counseling capacity, as well as creating a response system for students in distress, and taking steps to allow students to continue to engage in the campus community.
Dr. LeMura also stresses the need for us to speak up if we have concerns; we are a community and we must keep each other safe and healthy. “For those who are concerned about a friend or classmate, if you see something of concern, please let us know. We can’t offer help to someone in need if we don’t know about it.”
Students are encouraged to keep voicing their concerns, as well as using the resources available to them on campus. Take care of yourself, and take care of your community as well. ‘Phins don’t let ‘Phins swim alone.