To many of us, Lauren Stivers is a new and welcome face here at Rowland Hall. She now takes the position as the emotional support counselor in place of Mindy Vanderloo. Prior to working here, she worked at Child Protective Services, Life Matters counseling, and at children’s outpatient therapy; she also completed an internship at a psych unit for elderly patients. A great deal of her past work has been centered around helping students, which, as she remarked, “is so rewarding, because they have so much to learn, but they also have so [many] great insights.” She continued, “I love working with students because they teach me as much as I teach them. It’s also...getting in on the ground floor [and] teaching students about mental health when they’re still in high school.” Ms. Stivers said that being a Rowland Hall alumna makes her job here all the more surreal, as she now takes on the role of an educator. We asked her more about how her past experiences resonate with her current position and what her goals for the future are.
How has your past experience, especially during COVID, changed your approach to your job?
I think the hardest part about COVID, for me, has been the face masks. I've always relied really extensively on sort-of reading people's faces, their body language, things like that, so that I can tell if something's working or helping or something's not working.
What are some common mental health issues you see students struggling with at Rowland Hall?
I think the biggest thing that I see so far is students not recognizing that rest is necessary, that rest and recharging and giving yourself guilt-free time is important. Downtime is so vital to functioning; you're not going to be able to retain information, study effectively, listen in class, or learn anything if your battery is on empty. [It’s important] to learn this skill of time management where you also block out free time.
What mental health programs are you considering adding? What might you change in the programs Mindy Vanderloo created?
Mindy started the Mental Health Educators. And I'm really excited to get that going. I think that it sounds like their main focus was teaching advisories about mental health stuff. And I feel I want to expand that advocacy into something more universal and get the mental health educators trained, so that students can come to them one-on-one and talk to a peer about something that's bothering them, little stuff like, “Hey, I'm having trouble focusing, what's a trick that I can do?” Or, “Hey, my partner did something really weird. Is this healthy?”
Why might a student still want to check in even if they don't believe they struggle with mental health?
Don't wait until you're in a crisis. Come and see me. Because I can prevent the crisis from happening. If you come in and say, “I don't know what's happening. All of a sudden, I'm having trouble focusing in class, or I'm having trouble accomplishing homework or tasks, or things don't feel as fun to me anymore,” let's talk about ways to keep it from getting worse. The other thing that I love to help with is friend drama. I can help navigate that stuff. I can even help mediate conversations between friends, complex relationship problems. Everything is confidential. Come talk to me about your relationships, about what healthy relationships look like and how to navigate those. Oh, and chocolate. I have chocolate!
Lauren Stivers invites all students to check in with her. Mental health, in the midst of a busy schedule, can often become secondary to academics and extracurriculars. As Ms. Stivers mentions, rest and downtime can benefit performance in these activities. Even someone who might consider themselves as having good mental health can benefit from stopping by because she can help prevent issues from arising. As GoodTherapy states, school counseling can not only help students achieve social and academic goals, but it can also be a good resource for those who might need an outside opinion on an issue they may be facing. Finally, it is an excellent place for one to express their emotions in a judgment-free environment.