Last Tuesday, the Undergraduate Student Government proposed a mandatory student wellness course for first-year undergraduate students. If implemented, this course would begin as early as Fall 2018. According to USG Director of Wellness Marina Hrovat, the course would educate new students about a range of important campus life issues, from sexual assault and bystander intervention, to personal finance and mental health.
According to Hrovat, one of the main goals of the class is to teach students about the already-existing programs available to them as students at USC.
“One of the big gaps that we noticed is that students don’t know what the resources are on this campus, and it would be really beneficial to plug these resources in with first-year students,” Hrovat said.
This wellness class is severely needed, and frankly long overdue, particularly with regard to its emphasis on self-care, mental health and community.
Hrovat’s plan speaks to the practical, tangible benefits of student wellness that universities often seek, and rightfully so. If students are better equipped to take care of themselves on a physical and mental level, they are more likely to succeed in their academic and professional pursuits, and contribute to improving USC’s national ranking.
And yet, this is not the only important difference that a mandatory wellness course could make here on campus. The lived differences that mental and physical wellness can make for students on a purely individual basis are also highly beneficial and deserving of acknowledgement.
As a society, we are moving closer to destigmatizing mental health struggles. We are seeing this across the country in media, politics and on university campuses. If implemented, this mandatory course could further contribute to this movement. By including mental health and wellness in the curriculum, this wellness course could facilitate crucial discussions about mental health. If students feel comfortable with sharing their personal experiences, everyone could benefit.
While still reliant on a few individuals brave enough to share their experiences, that such dialogues in the classroom could have the power to create a powerful, internal movement of “Me Too” stories similar to what we are seeing on social media. Facilitating these dialogues in classrooms will likely make students who have been afraid to share or acknowledge their experiences with mental illness much more comfortable, and create safer spaces for them on campus.
The discussions that will likely come about as a result of this course do not only benefit those already afflicted by mental health struggles, but could also help the rest of the USC community at large. Too often, individuals afflicted with mental health problems are told to be brave and reach out for help. But there is not enough of an emphasis on the rest of the Trojan Family to do some reaching out of their own to those afflicted.
Class discussions for this course would make those students inexperienced with understanding mental health problems and symptoms more likely to notice when others may be suffering, and would prepare them to help. This could make all students more aware and active in ensuring that the members of our community feel safe to seek the help they need.
While USC already has taken some steps on this front, such as the Trojans Care for Trojans program, the University must go even further. How is a student supposed to call for help if they don’t know when help is needed? How can students who want to help their peers do so when they don’t know how? Ultimately, how can mental health be addressed on campus if the members of our student body don’t know what resources are available to them, and how to access these resources?
This problem applies not only to issues of mental health, but also to all of the areas Hrovat says the course will cover. USC offers myriad resources to help students with many aspects of their everyday lives that they may be struggling with, and yet these resources help no one if the University does not educate its students about them.
The benefits of a mandatory wellness class are ultimately two-fold. Not only will those suffering from issues related to personal well-being be more educated about the resources that USC has available to them, but also those who want to help their peers will be educated about how to do so. When our student body is educated about wellness, we will be able to create a conscious community that knows how to identify students in need of help, and educated about how to offer that help.
While this course, if implemented, will promote general education about wellness and self-care, its most powerful benefit could be bringing mental health dialogue into classrooms. This is an uncomfortable topic, and one few students would engage in if this were not a requirement. And yet, uncomfortable as it may be, it is deeply important to the Trojan Family, and makes a mandatory course like this absolutely crucial.
Sophomore, political science