Hendrix’s Mental Health Working Group connects the student body with administrators on campus, like members of the counseling services, Dr. Vetter, the Dean, and Dr. Davis, the psychiatrist who comes to campus every Tuesday. It’s led by sophomore Natalie Burgess.
“We meet biweekly and discuss issues that we see happening. We have also worked with COGS this year and partnered with them on a project that concerned the disparities with mental health in the LGBT community,” Burgess said.
Burgess started her first counseling sessions in August with the new counselor Mr. Darrick Ball. It is her first experience with a counselor.
“He repeats back what I say to him often, which helps me synthesize my own feelings about things,” Burgess said. “It has been really helpful. He has connected me with Dr. Davis.”
Seventeen years ago, the counseling services at Hendrix consisted only of Dr. Mary-Anne Seibert, who is now head of counseling services. There are two full-time and one part-time therapists. Dr. Seibert is very focused on making sure the counseling services meet the needs of students.
“I want to ensure this office is growing too,” Dr. Seibert said. “Students really care about mental health issues on campus and have used their voices to ensure that we are adequately staffed.”
Along with the demands of students being met, Dr. Seibert would like to ensure versatility in the counseling services. For example, having Mr. Ball allows for students to choose a female or male counselor.
“I want to ensure that we have different kinds of therapist that students might relate to in different ways,” Dr. Seibert said. “My staff is really wonderful, and all three of us could see any student and be comfortable with that. There are times when students have a preference, and I’m delighted that we can offer that. It’s nice to be able to give them that choice.”
The transition period for Mr. Ball was very smooth, consisting mostly of reviewing Hendrix College procedures and policy. Mr. Ball began his services in August 2018.
“This was his first time working in a college counseling center, but because he’d had such a broad range of experiences before, he was able to transfer his skills to this kind of setting,” Dr. Seibert said.
Mr. Ball has had previous experience at the Youth Home Incorporated, Department of Human Services, Center Street Youth and Families, crisis management hotline services, and at the Youth Home Day Treatment. During his time in these facilities, Mr. Ball aided chronically mentally ill and at-risk adults, homeless adolescent boys who were in the state’s custody, and public school children.
“I’m used to a lot of emergency crisis behaviors where things are volatile,” Mr. Ball said, “I think it has been an interesting transition. It’s a new experience to walk-in and see a person who is wanting to see or do things differently, maybe in a healthier way. I’m so impressed that students are proactive to do things differently, to put them in a better space for themselves.”
The students’ reactions and openness have been a surprise and new experience for him.
“I was surprised by students’ willingness to come in for services because there is this stigma that counseling services are for [people] who are unable to manage,” Mr. Ball said. “It’s been refreshing to see people with a healthy perspective of what counseling is about. It’s an honor every day to sit with someone who’s willing to share some of their deepest darkest pains.”