Coe College focuses on mental health during freshmen orientation

Coe College entrance on August 19, 2019 (Aaron Hosman/KCRG)
Coe College entrance on August 19, 2019 (Aaron Hosman/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Aug. 19, 2019 at 6:29 PM CDT
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More than 400 students will start their college careers at Coe College in Cedar Rapids this week.

Orientation for this year’s incoming class involved a focus on mental health.

Coe College reached out to the Linn County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health, or NAMI, to come up with a program highlighting the services the school has to offer.

“For many, we know that transition from home can be one of those times that some of those mental health symptoms may kind of creep in and so we wanted to make sure they were aware of the resources right away,” Emily Barnard, a counselor and the Director of Health and Wellness at Coe, said.

One way event leaders say mental health conditions can be reduced is by providing a safe and comfortable place for the issues to be talked about.

NAMI brought in Leah Beman as part of the orientation. Beman is an Iowa State Student University student who runs her school’s NAMI chapter. She shared her own story about mental health.

“When I was diagnosed with my generalized anxiety and panic attack disorder in high school, I started to realize there was a stigma around mental health and no one really talked about it,” Beman said. “Talking about my own personal story, in general, I have found it helps people the most. Not just spewing out facts at them, people are like I don’t really see how this relates."

Dr. Mona McCalley-Whitters, from NAMI Linn County, says mental health conditions are easier to treat when addressed at an earlier age.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 24-year-olds, so it’s a very timely topic and it’s a sensitive [one] that we need to have courageous conversations about,” McCalley-Whitters said.

McCalley-Whitters said oftentimes, mental health conditions are hidden disabilities, more common that one may think.

“We know that one in five people have mental health conditions and that those people have been bullied, shamed, mistreated and fear prejudice because of their mental illness,” McCalley-Whitters.

Coe said about 25 percent of their students will go through a mental health crisis while on campus, so making them aware of resources at the beginning of the year is a priority.

Besides having their own counselors available, Coe also has therapists from Tanager Place on campus a few days a week.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1-800-273-8255 or