While most of Lehigh’s services have returned to an in-person setting, Lehigh’s counseling services remain virtual this semester.
Dr. Briana Luppino, staff psychologist at Lehigh’s Counseling and Psychological Services (UCPS), said the semester has been different because staff do not have access to their offices due to renovations.
Luppino said most staff members are working from home but also have temporary office space in Christmas-Saucon Hall. Though this space is provided, Luppino said it is not large enough for all staff members to be there at the same time.
“It’s kind of busy there,” Luppino said. “There’s students and classes walking around, so it’s not as quiet or confidential as what we’re used to.”
Another reason why the counseling center is operating virtually this semester is because in-person sessions would require both parties to wear masks, Luppino said.
Luppino said mask wearing can cause a disconnect when discussing personal topics.
“It feels even weirder (wearing a mask) when folks are talking about really emotionally charged stuff where you might be crying or upset, but not being able to take your mask off or blow your nose,” Luppino said.
Luppino said there are some students who prefer virtual counseling to meeting in person. She said those students find virtual counseling easier to fit into their class schedules and enjoy being able to Zoom from the comfort of their rooms.
Luppino said the number of students using counseling services this semester looks similar to the amount of students using these services prior to the pandemic.
Aside from its traditional counseling services, UCPS also conducts workshops that tackle topics such as stress management and coping strategies.
Luppino is a facilitator of a knitting workshop, One Stitch at a Time. This workshop allows students to knit virtually as a group and aims to help them manage stress and increase patience and focus.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is another mental health resource for students on campus.
Madie Schulte ,‘22, co-president of NAMI, said the group struggled to grow last year since they could not meet in person.
“The first-years in the clubs just felt lonely and separated from everyone else,” Schulte said. “We tried to host events and Zooms to talk to people. I know that was hard for them, and that was also hard for us because we didn’t know what to do.”
Schulte said meeting in person this year has been better for the club.
Allie Kirkpatrick, social media chair of NAMI, said more can be done at Lehigh when it comes to advertising support for mental health.
She said most people don’t know about NAMI or do not know how to express they are struggling with their mental health.
“A lot of people don’t know that the counseling center exists and that it’s not weird to just walk in and say, ‘I need an appointment,’” she said.