Madeline Richard ’26 (she/her)
Davidson’s Mental Health Ambassadors (MHAs) are students deeply committed to raising awareness about mental health issues on Davidson’s campus. They aim to destigmatize discussions about mental health, help students in need, and create a more supportive campus environment.
According to the American Psychological Association, over 60% of college students show signs of at least one mental health problem; the most common mental health conditions are anxiety, stress, and depression. Rigorous schools—like Davidson—tend to exacerbate these struggles. Alexis Fintchre, a counselor and the MHAs’ faculty advisor, explained, “Davidson’s rigor and academic standards could be deemed inhumane at times. There’s a direct link to the consistently high productivity demands on deteriorating mental health, which can show up as inconsistent attention spans, fatigue, emotional reactivity, and frequent illness.”
Jenna DeLucca ‘24, president of the MHA program, shared similar sentiments to Fintchre: “So many people who I’ve talked to lately, they’re [ … ] just tired. Like, they’re just so burnt out and tired and just want to sleep. And so I can definitely see the exhaustion setting in with people at this time of the semester.” Davidson can be draining, and as finals start approaching and students’ workload increases, mental health may become an even bigger issue.
Fintchre suggested that Queer and BIPOC students face additional mental health difficulties at Davidson. They experience “common mental health issues, but with the intersections of those identities, may be presented with oppressive realities on a more frequent basis. Their help-seeking behaviors can appear different than those of their peers, which is common for those who hold identities that are deemed a deviation from the norm by unsafe/unhelpful environments. Finding a community that’s reflective of their values and personhood has been a commonly reported struggle,” said Fintchre. These difficulties might confound existing mental health issues, making support systems especially important for queer and BIPOC students.
DeLucca stressed the importance of additional student support in times of transition. “If this is people’s first time experiencing this—like maybe they’re freshmen and they don’t know college is different from high school, or maybe they have a harder courseload, or something else is going on outside of their life, and this is their first time experiencing [mental health issues]—it can be really hard to understand what’s going on and how to deal with it,” said Delucca. Feeling lost or confused could amplify mental health struggles, so seeking support is crucial for these students.
MHAs offer additional support alongside Davidson’s Counseling services at the Center for Student Health and Wellbeing. Since all MHAs are Davidson students, they have valuable perspectives and can sympathize with many student struggles, particularly in regard to heavy workload.
Peer-to-peer support, explained DeLucca, can make mental health conversations more approachable. “I think sometimes it’s hard to get professional help. And so if you have someone who’s, you know, at the same age and going through the same kind of things and just kind of gets what it’s like to be a college student, especially a college student at Davidson [ … ] that’s really helpful and convincing,” shared DeLucca. Connections destigmatize conversations about mental health and make students more open to getting help.
The MHA program is based on Kitchener’s Five Moral Principles: autonomy, beneficence, fidelity, justice, and nonmaleficence. MHAs are guided by these ethics with every decision.
Once accepted, students who applied to be MHAs must undergo significant training. All MHAs are “Question, Persuade, Refer,” (QPR) trained, which is a suicide prevention strategy. They also participate in Mental Health First Aid training, which helps them to support students in need.
There have been multiple MHA events this fall with more on the horizon. Earlier this semester, the MHAs introduced themselves to the Davidson community by hosting a tabling event, complete with informational fliers and mini Bundt cakes. They recently organized a pumpkin painting event, which allowed students to step away from a stressful week and engage more mindfully. David Graham, the Director of Counseling, believes these breaks are crucial: “moments when we pause can do wonders for us” and help us “reset.” The MHAs are also planning events for World Kindness Week this November to encourage students to embrace each other and celebrate their community.
MHAs work closely with Davidson’s administration and are currently collaborating with Title IX coordinator, Carley Dix, to best support victims of sexual trauma. These relationships expand their reach and help the MHAs support students throughout challenging situations.
MHA efforts are always evolving. As DeLucca explained, the group is “constantly planning” diverse ways to discuss mental health. For instance, they have a committee working on mental health and relationships as well as a group focused specifically on anxiety. The MHAs also hope to organize a solidarity event with Students Against Sexual Violence next semester, reminding students that they are not alone in their struggle and creating a supportive environment. These topics are diverse, but united by a common commitment to mental health.
The MHAs hope to normalize conversations about mental health, offer support throughout the challenges of college, and reassure students that they matter. All of their efforts contribute to their ultimate goal; as DeLucca emphasized, the MHAs are “trying to keep going, pushing for advocacy, and hoping to make some sort of difference” in whatever way they can.