Wellness Labs provides a safe space for student dialogue about mental health – The Daily Texan
Skyler Kawalek said she sought a group at UT where she could share her experiences with mental health without fear of judgment. She said she found this community in Wellness Labs.
“I (grew up) feeling like I would never be like the students at UT because I had anxiety, depression and other factors,” English junior Kawalek said. “It was really amazing for there to be resources and support available for me on campus to make me feel like I can actually be what changes the world.”
Wellness Labs, hosted by the College of Liberal Arts as a part of the Humanitas Movement, takes place every Wednesday, covering topics such as self-love, mindfulness, imposter syndrome and testing anxiety. Wellness Labs aims to provide a safe space for students to address mental health issues, according to Maggie Wilhite, student wellness coordinator for COLA.
Wilhite said she came up with the idea for Wellness Labs when trying to build a series of concrete events to provide support for students wanting to engage in open discussion about mental wellness.
“It started out as a weekly idea, and I wanted it to be a place for experimentation,” Wilhite said. “A kind of place to meet student needs, so I thought of it as a lab. I wanted to create (a space) for students where they can share, be vulnerable, learn from each other and support each other.”
Each week’s event focuses on a different theme, occasionally including expert guest speakers and emotional support animals. In the past, the lab invited James Butler from the Longhorn Wellness Center to speak about building daily habits of awareness. Additionally, the Sanger Learning Center provided workshops for time management and productivity as well as tips on better sleep from the Wellness Center.
For students like Jane Cleary, a Plan II, women’s and gender studies, Spanish and international relations and global studies sophomore, Wellness Labs offer a safe environment for her to understand herself better and form a community.
“It’s taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable,” Cleary said. “I feel safe with the people at the Wellness labs. I always feel like the people who are showing up are the people who are going to care about you and about what you’re going through, and I think that’s really special.”
Led by UT care counselors, Cleary said the workshop centered around self-love and provided her with an opportunity to express her vulnerability.
“I shared things I was going through and other people shared things they were going through, and I felt like we were unified,” Cleary said.
Above all, Kalawek said she appreciated the effort by University personnel to address the topic of mental health and provide concrete support for students.
“There are University individuals, faculty and staff who are taking those next-level steps to make a difference on campus for students’ mental health,” Kawalek said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from because there’s real change happening on this campus, and that’s something to get excited for.”