“I’m stressed.”

“I’m homesick.”

“I just feel blue.”

More than 87 percent of Fordham students reported feeling overwhelmed by all of the demands and challenges they faced last year, according to an annual benchmarking survey conducted by Fordham’s Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS). That’s why Fordham counselors work in sometimes surprising ways to help enhance the overall mental health and wellness of the University community.

“We know that mental health and wellness are foundational for learning,” says Jeffrey Ng, PsyD, director of CPS. “The college years can be challenging for many students. It’s a transitional period that can include many academic, social, developmental, and economic stressors. Additionally, certain mental illnesses are more likely to manifest in the 18-to-25 age range. All of this speaks to the importance of supporting and promoting mental health on campus.”

Efforts to promote psychological health and wellness at Fordham incorporate varied aspects of the mind, body, and spirit. At CPS, students can receive services that include one-on-one clinical counseling, group counseling, crisis intervention, and referrals to local agencies and practitioners. But there are also meditation workshops and lessons on how to manage stress and anxiety, tips on how to beat the winter blues with yoga, and one-on-one nutritional counseling in conjunction with dining services to help inspire healthy eating choices on campus.

In all, nearly 1,400 students took advantage of CPS’s services last year, says Ng, whose staff of 12 full- and part-time counselors and more than 15 doctoral-level trainees and psychiatric residents are on hand to support students’ needs.

Greg Pappas, assistant vice president for student affairs, says CPS’s work is integral to Fordham’s mission as a Jesuit university. “We care for every single individual. There is a restlessness on our part to make sure we are doing everything we can,” he says, “[to let]students know there is a holistic concern for them.”

To supplement their wide-ranging efforts, this past October, CPS received a three-year, $300,000 federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Among other initiatives, the grant has allowed the University to hire Jill Lederman, LMSW, as a full-time outreach specialist to engage and train the campus community on mental health promotion and suicide prevention.

Lederman recently began teaching a four-week Koru Mindfulness meditation workshop to students at Rose Hill. Koru is a stress-management program created specifically for college students and young adults to address the changes and stresses that they uniquely feel.

“I think it’s been really eye-opening for us all,” Lederman says. “The students really seem to enjoy it, and they are learning stress-coping and resiliency tools that they can use for a lifetime.”

Fordham faculty and staff can contribute to optimizing mental health and wellness on campus, says Ng “by keeping their eyes and ears open, so they can recognize, approach, and refer students who are struggling to appropriate campus resources, such as CPS.”

Parents, too, can play an important part in promoting health and wellness at Fordham by “de-stigmatizing and lowering the threshold for help-seeking,” Ng says. “I would encourage parents and families to frame help-seeking as a sign of strength and maturity rather than a sign of weakness.”

Another important thing parents can do is stay involved, says Pappas. “We have an open door for parents to come and talk to us about their child and to have a general dialog,” he says. “They can reach out to us at any time.”

Learn more about the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services.

—Maja Tarateta