The recently created St. Olaf Anxiety/OCD Support Group continues to meet virtually this fall, offering mental health support and community for students on the Hill.
Mia Denuit ’21 started the support group in January (of 2020.)The confidential, student-run group only met a few times before classes went online due to COVID-19. Now conducted over Zoom, meetings usually consist of five or six students and begin with a discussion of how they are feeling. Sometimes attendees share their rose, bud and thorn —- the highlights, hopes and low points from the week, Denuit said.
Students often want someone to listen rather than give advice. “I think sometimes all kids want is just a space where they can rant and just talk about their anxieties and stuff like that,” Denuit said.
Attendees determine what the majority of each meeting looks like. Subjects have included coping strategies, common stressors as well as relatable stories about anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Other conversations this year have centered around Ole culture and shame surrounding work performance.
Denuit, who said she had a bad experience at Boe House Counseling Center on campus, came up with the idea for the organization last year. She liked the group setting of an outpatient mental health treatment program in which she had participated during the previous summer and wondered why there was not a student-led anxiety support group on campus already.
“I got to be with other people who were different from me but also very alike. We all had very differentiating anxieties, but it was almost like we went in to go to work, essentially,” Denuit said. She sees the benefits of “[getting] the support from peers who were kind of going through similar things.”
In a survey that Denuit sent to the St. Olaf Extra email alias asking what students want to talk about regarding their mental health, 70% of responses indicated anxiety and 20% of responses indicated OCD. Denuit then found seven students who wanted to start the organization with her, and the St. Olaf Anxiety/OCD Support Group was born.
Denuit is still deciding the group’s meeting schedule. “I’m trying to find the best possible schedule that works for everybody to come,” Denuit said.
Denuit encourages students to seek therapy and to not seek the support group as their only form of help. “I don’t want to be in charge of [a member of the group] if anything bad does happen,” Denuit said.
Denuit finds pride in the group and encourages students to be open about their struggles.
“This is like one of the things I’m most proud of, I think, just because all of this comes from a great source of pain, and now I’m kind of paying it forward, in a way,” Denuit said. “I’m hoping that kids understand that it’s okay to chat about it and sometimes really just putting it out in the public in a safe, controlled environment helps alleviate [stress].” For more information, follow @anxietyocdstolaf on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.