Revamping Student Life at Lawrenceville: Placing Greater Emphasis on Lawrenceville's Mental Health Resources

Constance Sharp ’24 in Opinions | April 1, 2022

Dear Lawrenceville, 

 I believe that I speak for many of us students when I say that we need help. Since my two years of being here, I’ve noticed that mental health struggles have been raging across campus. We entered this school with hopes for opportunity and joy, and yet every day has blurred into a whirl of stress, exhaustion, and loneliness. Over the past two years, Lawrentians’ mental health has plummeted due to social isolation and our reluctance to reach out for medical support. 

Predictably, the decline in the quality of our mental health is rooted in the Covid-19 pandemic. The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s 2021 national mental health poll found that nearly 50 percent of teens have suffered from a new or worsening mental health condition since the beginning of the pandemic, while 75 percent have found social interactions increasingly challenging. Lawrentians have not been immune to this phenomenon. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to be physically distant from one another for over two years; such isolation has also increased our emotional distance from one another. For nearly two years, we have felt as though our entire world was confined to our inner thoughts and computer screen. Now, having returned to the pre-Covid pace of life, we inevitably struggle to keep up in what seems to be an utterly new world. 

What we should do is seek support from the Al-Rashid Health and Wellness Center––yet we often shy away from the counseling services due to our misconceptions surrounding them. Some students don’t even know what the School’s counseling entails, or even that the option of receiving professional medical help on campus even exists. The minimal exposure we receive about the counseling services most often comes second-hand, primarily from disgruntled students who feel unsupported by the counseling staff. As we receive little outreach from counselors themselves, we simply cannot make a definite judgment about the counseling system’s true effectiveness. Not all of us have the first-hand experience to even do so. Regardless, negative perceptions about the counseling staff discourage an already wary student population from seeking the help they need. 

Instead of reaching out to counselors or trusted adults, Lawrentians often find themselves trying to support their struggling peers without a support system to fall back upon. To clarify: seeking sympathy and guidance from your friends while undergoing a mental crisis is far from inherently bad. That being said, friends and prefects are not equipped to provide emotional and medical support the way a mental health professional can. These attempts could potentially be incredibly destructive for both parties: the student seeking help may receive misguided and destructive advice, and, to make matters worse, the emotional burden placed upon their friends multiplies the number of emotional struggles on campus. 

To alleviate these struggles, we must hold specific and goal-oriented conversations about mental health instead of pushing them into a subgroup of broader campus complaints. To spearhead these conversations, the School should employ a new Dean of Health and Wellness focused entirely on supporting students throughout the school year. From offering more digitally accessible mental health services such as hotlines or for all forms to well-needed medical perspectives during the disciplinary process, this dean would usher in a new era of mental health transparency at Lawrenceville. That is not to say that a new administrative appointment alone will immediately ameliorate our crisis; instead, we students also have the responsibility to continue voicing our true thoughts and concerns to ensure that the School can provide the mental health resources we so desperately need. And I know that the School, who cares deeply about us students, will do whatever possible to help us.

Lawrenceville: together, we can do this. 

With great hope,  
Constance Sharp