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MENtal health matters

Jelly Nguyen '24

May 5, 2023

In the last few weeks, the counseling department of the Rutherford Health and Wellness Center began hosting a series of lunches for students and faculty who identify as male to discuss men’s wellness. 

The topic of men’s health and well-being is often neglected, so the creation of these lunches allows students to talk about any topics they want, such as masculinity or mental health, in a safe space. The lunches will span four weeks which started on April 19, with one lunch each week. 

Social-emotional learning counselor Amy Shaffer Post hopes that these lunches will help students to be open to their own feelings and others. “Students that participate will hopefully recognize that they are not alone in wanting to discuss wellness and improve circumstances around wellness for male-identifying individuals,” said Shaffer Post

About the launch of these special lunches, Shaffer Post said, “The counseling team decided to offer several men's wellness lunches after we noticed that our typical Wellness Wednesday lunches are nearly entirely students who identify as females. We wanted to create a space that was specific for students who identify as male to talk with each other and with male-identifying faculty. It is important that we think about wellness for everyone on our campus and try to meet specific needs.” 

Science teacher Brendan Daly, one of the faculty members present at last week’s lunch, believes, “It is important to provide an opportunity for young men to talk about their experiences; I worry too many young men think sharing their thoughts with others is read as a weakness.” 

Mike Conklin, Director of College Counseling, who was also in attendance at the lunch, thinks that the lunches are an excellent opportunity to give students the spotlight to express their opinions and thoughts. “I've come of age at a time when it is increasingly socially acceptable to identify and address issues of toxic masculinity, and I hope by being in dialogue with others in a shared space, I can offer a perspective that moves the conversation forward.”

Students were able to give their thoughts about issues and struggle they face as men that are often overlooked. Samuel Zhao ’24 attended one of the lunches and was grateful for the opportunity to share his feelings. “We got to talk about things that I’ve never thought about before. Since I was young I was told that I needed to be brave and never to show my weaknesses to others because I was a boy. This opportunity gave me the chance to speak up my mind as well as to listen to what others have to say about their experiences,” Zhao said. 

According to Zhao, many general topics arose during the discussion. “General topics I observed were the stereotypical view about men such as strength and independence and how boys are often pressured to live up to their masculine image, but personally we still have moments of emotions and vulnerability that we rarely have the chance to express.” 

Dean Tae ’24 agrees with this common theme of being able to express his personal experiences: “I think the best part of it was that we were able to share our experiences and thoughts in a safe space. It could be challenging for some students to talk about certain sensitive issues openly. However, the discussion allowed us to exchange thoughts without worrying about being judged by other people had we had this conversation elsewhere.”

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