This year, new student orientation didn’t end before the semester began. It ended after a multi-week mental health program.
Once a week, for four weeks, first-years were encouraged to meet with student leaders to engage in discussions about mental health as part of the new RADical Health initiative.
RADical Health is an interactive tool that provides students with resources to stay well and resilient through interviews and group discussions, according to its website.
“It provides and equips students with a platform to have these important conversations where normally they would not take place,” Serena Mancuso (’25) said. “I have been participating in the discussions mainly because I find them very helpful and I think it’s great to talk to other people about important topics on how to stay well and resilient as a student.”
The initiative, facilitated by orientation leaders and tour guides, was not mandatory for new students, but strongly encouraged.
First-year Daniella Rosero (‘25) said she joined due to her prioritization of mental health.
“Majority of the students who are in the orientation group opted not to be part of it because they [are] probably not interested in mental health,” Rosero said. “I think it’s definitely important, and I actually was interested in it, so I wanted to join it.”
Especially after being remote, Director of University Events Megan McHugh said providing students with these coping and resiliency skills is more important than ever.
“It felt especially appropriate to implement this program for this specific group of students who are starting their college experience after a year and a half of living and learning through the pandemic,” McHugh said.
Rosero and Mancuso both agree these discussions are valuable.
“I feel it is extremely important to be having these conversations about self care with other people,” Mancuso said. “Talking to others will always offer a different perspective on something that you may have not thought of before.”
The response of the program has not been all positive, however. Most participants said there is room for improvement.
Facilitator Alivia Salls (’23) agrees, and suggested the program be run by health professionals rather than student leaders.
“I don’t think it’s something that should be student-to-student run because all of us are struggling in our own way,” Salls said. “I have more experience with [coping methods] and I can share what I’ve learned so far, but overall I don’t know how to manage my own stress.”
“We need people who actually know what they’re talking about to be the ones to help if this is going to be something that can actually benefit anyone,” she added.
Rachel Papa (’23) said this information on mental health should have been given to first-years differently.
“Coming into [college] I was aware of the resources [but] it wasn’t until our second semester that I decided to finally go to the counseling center,” Papa, a facilitator of the program, said. “I do think it’s also something that [new students] might want to take some time to think about before they just jump right in.”
Despite having to work through the kinks, McHugh hopes to implement this new program in semesters going forward.
Since the initiative was first created last fall, RADical Health is currently in its pilot phase, meaning there is a lot of room for improvement. Drew University is one of the few universities, along with Fairfield University, New York University and several other institutions, incorporating RADical Health.
“We’ll review the data, and see how the program was received before making any decisions, but I hope we can continue to offer this resource to more students in the future,” McHugh said.
Although this was the last week for new students to participate in the initiative, Drew’s Counseling and Psychological Services is offering both in-person and virtual support this semester, with private rooms available to participate in telehealth appointments, according to Drew’s website.