With a new year comes some changes all throughout campus with new classes and new stressors. Luckily for students at the University of Maine, there is a resource waiting just around the corner — the Mind Spa. Although they have been here for a while, this semester they are upping their programming, having a specific program every day and having extended their hours to stay open Monday through Friday.
Although they had programming on specific days last semester, some of the days have changed and they have a couple of updated programs. On Mondays, the Mind Spa will now be hosting info sessions, run by counselors or staff, discussing different topics in the realm of mental health. The first one of the semester, which will be on Monday, Jan. 29 is on time management. The event for Tuesday is new this semester as Tunes on Tuesday.
“I don’t really know what it will entail, but we told people to bring in instruments or music or whatever they want, so we’ll see,” graduate assistant Andrea Pereira said of the new program.
Wednesdays will be workshop days with counselors from the counseling center holding sessions on various topics, delving deeper into an issue that affects students. One of these workshops which was held last year tackled the subject of anxiety; not just what it was and how to deal with it, but also why it can take control of your life. These are held in one of the rooms upstairs in the Memorial Union, allowing for a larger crowd to attend. Thursdays are fourth-year social work student Joe Siraco’s favorite event, the showing of TED talks and a discussion following.
“It’s good to have that discussion and the people who come in seem to really like it,” Siraco said. “It’s always interesting because each week it’s something different.’’
Fridays will now have meditation sessions, which had historically been on Mondays.
The purpose of the Mind Spa remains the same amidst the new program changes. They strive to provide a safe place where students can escape the stress of school and deal with this in a healthy manner. Fourth-year psychology student Russell Fascione works in a work study position at the Mind Spa and he explains the primary purpose being to help students to learn to help themselves.
“We come up with programs that help students de-stress and learn about mental health. Just help them help themselves. We do info sessions and watch TED talks and discuss our experiences with mental health,” he said.
Another asset that will be continuing from last semester is the help from counselors that the Mind Spa receives. There are two co-coordinators from the Counseling Center who help lead programming and offer expert information and advice.
“That’s enabled us to have programs where the counselors actually come and do workshops and guide meditation. And I think that’s helped because instead of having me, being like ‘let’s talk about something,’ it’s a voice of someone who’s trained and has a lot of expertise. I think that’s added a lot of weight to what we do,” Fascione said.
The Mind Spa events and programming aren’t limited to the physical office space. Throughout the semester they hold different events promoting positive mental health practices. Some of this is done through the Mobile Mind Spa, which has made its way to athletics, various sororities and even some first-year classes. Even more is done through events done in the hallways of Memorial Union and elsewhere.
Siraco’s favorite event so far was last year right outside the Bear’s Den.
“It was a campaign where we were outside the Bear’s Den we were grabbing people and having them write one thing they were happy about. That was really cool because we had a huge turnout and had lots of different people, old and young,” Siraco said.
All of the things that people wrote down now hang on the door of the Mind Spa for anyone who is walking by the office to see.
Even though the semester just started, they already have programs scheduled for this semester. The first event they will hold is for Valentine’s Day.
“A lot of times on Valentine’s Day it’s an ostracizing holiday where if I’m not in a relationship, it feels like something’s wrong with me,” Siraco said.
For this event, the staff will be handing out carnations to anyone who writes an anonymous Valentine’s Day Card. These cards will go out to random people along with a carnation. They are also going to let people write self-love notes and get a carnation with those. The table for this will be in front of the info desk on Valentine’s Day.
With the semester getting back in swing, the Mind Spa is also hitting the ground running, providing a safe environment for students of all different ages and backgrounds.
“We don’t have just traditional students who come in. Not everyone needs a counselor but they need a place where they can relax and have a conversation or a cup of tea,” Siraco said.
As the graduate assistant for the Mind Spa, Pereira has a similar message.
“I just want people to come here. I think people are intimidated to walk in. We love strangers. We have couches and snacks,” she said. “You don’t have to be in a crisis to come here, you don’t have to be using the Counseling Center; anyone can come here.”
The Mind Spa is open 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and anyone with questions can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.