The Wellness Educator (WE) Program, sponsored by Student Psychological Services, originated as a result of the student body's need to raise awareness of mental health issues among the LMU community. The program is led by student Wellness Educators who facilitate and coordinate workshops and presentations to talk to different student groups on mental health issues. Wellness Educators undergo intensive training (under the ongoing supervision of psychologists and mental health professionals) on topics like depression, anxiety
and body image issues. In an interview held on Friday, March 26, student Wellness Educators and junior psychology majors Sarah Jones and Samantha Palermo answered questions on the WE program and their roles as educators, working during COVID-19 and mental health.
On their roles as educators, Palermo said, “Me and Sarah do different tasks, and we’re the only ones who are doing internships with the Wellness Educators because we have been working there for over a year. Sarah is in charge of organization and handling upcoming events, presentations and scheduling, while I am in charge of managing the social media aspect for the Wellness Educators.” Jones added that she and Palermo underwent the same training as the rest of the Wellness Educators and also help in making presentations on mental health issues.
On their reason behind becoming educators, Palermo said, “I was a mental health chair [in high school] and I was really passionate about students having an outlet where they could feel like they had a support system because my school community did not have a peer support system. So, going into college I was really driven on becoming a therapist and working in the mental health field and doing something similar to what I did in high school." She added that she searched specifically for colleges with similar programs and found out about LMU's WE Program.
Jones said, “I learned about the program through the flyer that the psych department sends out to all psych majors at the beginning of the semester, and realized that it was a very good opportunity to have such a hands-on experience without being a certified therapist.” On being asked about the student Wellness Educators’ role in destigmatizing mental health issues at LMU, Palermo said, “I definitely think that we are trying to spread as much awareness as possible because as more people talk about [mental health,] more people will realize that it’s a common issue that many people face."
On working over Zoom, Palermo claimed, “It’s hard to keep people's focus over Zoom. People are more willing to speak when you’re face-to-face with them whereas when they’re in front of cameras they are likely to turn it off.” Jones added, “You can only do so much over a digital platform.”
The interview ended with Palermo and Jones giving advice to college students struggling with mental health. Palermo said, “You are never alone. So many people care about you and, if you ever need anything, the Wellness Educators are there for you.” Jones said, “Growing up is hard and it is weird. We all need to be here for each other.”