Columbia’s Wellness Fair steps up to help students

By Nancy Cooper

College students deal with a range of issues regarding mental and sexual health, but Columbia’s biannual Wellness Fair offers students resources to help them manage their health.

Columbia’s bi-annual Wellness Fair provided help and awareness Oct. 8 in the 623 S. Wabash Ave. building for college students struggling with mental and physical health issues.

“I think the biggest thing is that students don’t always have the education on all the community resources,” said Thomas Lee Cravens II, coordinator of student relations. “Chicago has a ton of service providers, and we are trying to bridge the gap on what happens off-campus and on-campus.”

This year, the fair offered a wide variety of booths where students could find information and help on issues, poor diet, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and sexual health concerns.

Cravens said students can come by and communicate what they are seeking and the Office of Student Health and Support can steer them in the proper direction.

“Up to this point in students’ lives, their parents have taken care of their health needs, [but] now it is time to get you connected with all the appropriate resources you need while you are in college,” Cravens said. “We are here to help you.”   

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also brought awareness to college students at the event. Andrew Wegner, master of social work intern, said the NAMI wanted to express that mental illness is something that is treatable and that students can live a productive and normal life with or without mental illness.

“It is important to target college students because [they] are in a major transitional phase in their lives,” Wegner said. “There is no shame in coming forth and discussing it as you would a physical condition. It is something that is treatable and can work through it.”

 Comprensión y Apoyo a Latinos en Oposición al Retrovirus partnered with Columbia to offer students free HIV and STI screenings. CALOR is a Belmont-Cragin-based organization that serves those with HIV/AIDS, primarily in the Hispanic community.

Darren Patin, a sophomore musical theatre major at Columbia, said he attended, the fair to get the free HIV testing.

“It is important for students to have things like this to rely on when they can’t afford to pay for HIV testing,” Patin said. “We always need to be conscious of what’s going on with our bodies and telling others what’s going on before we make decisions that we make.”

Rosecrance, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center with locations in Chicago and several suburbs, also partnered with Columbia to provide information about substance abuse. Courtney Kerch, a communications specialist at Rosecrance, said it is important for students to know that there are free substance abuse assessments available in the Chicago area.

“There is help out there and [students] do not have to be ashamed to ask for help whether if it is for a friend or family member,” Kerch said.

The Student Health Center distributed information on counseling services, therapy, pregnancy resources, STD/HIV testing, LGBTQ resources and safe sex resources.

 “The college age group is one of the most active age groups for experimentations,” said Greg Musil office administrator of Health and Student Center. “It is important to get self-tested on a regular basis.”

 Musil said art students tend to not be afraid of seeking help and that students need to be aware of their own health whether it is physical, mental or sexual.

“They are fearless, and that is one reason why I like the school so much,” Musil said. “Coming in and being able to to ask questions is fantastic.”

 Other service providers included Whole Foods, which provided information on healthy diets, a notorious problem for students.

Alexis Garcia, a senior cinema art + science major, said attending the fair wasn’t in her original plans, but the crowd drew her attention.

“I wasn’t planning on attending, but I saw what was going on in the lobby and stopped by,” Garcia said “There are a lot of problems go on with sexual and mental health. It is not worth compromising your health over.”