Dr. Samantha DeCaro, Photo Credits – The Renfrew Center
On Oct. 10, individuals across the world will be celebrating and honoring what has become known as World Mental Health Day, a collective day of reflection and awareness. The day encourages all to engage in conversations about the stigmatization of mental health and how struggling individuals can seek resources, as well as how society can move forward with a better understanding of its impacts.
One such organization taking part in the worldwide event is a nationwide organization, The Renfrew Center. Opening its doors to the public in 1985, the center was the first residential treatment center for people with eating disorders in the United States. It was founded on values of community and connection, acknowledging the fact that individuals struggling with mental health require a different form of treatment than a patient with a physical impairment.
This was at a time when the perspective on mental health was rather ambiguous, lacking the sort of knowledge providers now have on what mental health disorders are and what kind of treatment they require. Dr. Samantha DeCaro, director of Clinical Outreach and Education with a history of working as a therapist at Renfrew, shared on the matter how the Renfrew Center took a different approach to mental health treatment, in contrast to previous practices that just entailed hospitalization like one would get for a physical injury. “When we opened our doors in 1985, [we] really brought in the mental health piece. We knew that people with eating disorders needed to heal with connection and community, not in a hospital bed,” said DeCaro.
Across their 19 nationwide sites and two residential facilities, Renfrew provides an expansive array of services, including residential treatment, intensive out-patient services and day treatment programs. The center also attends to individuals struggling with various eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, orthorexia, diabulimia and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).
“First and foremost, our goal is the health and wellbeing of all the individuals who come to Renfrew for treatment, but we really want to empower people to change their lives,” shared DeCaro on the center’s goals and beliefs. This perspective was in large part a catalyst for the center to create their own celebratory event for World Mental Health Day this year.
As part of the day of recognition, Renfrew is planning to hold many virtual events on Oct. 10 in celebration of World Mental Health Day that the public can take part in to learn more about mental health resources. First, there will be multiple events happening live throughout the day, of which individuals need to register for prior to the event. These include an Instagram Live holding conversations about mindfulness and mental health awareness at noon, a virtual support group at 4 p.m. and a virtual art group at 7 p.m.
Additionally, there will be “on-demand” resources which can be accessed by users at their own convenience, not at a scheduled time. These events will include a virtual yoga session and handouts with mental health tips, as well as a comprehensive list of mental health resources such as hotlines and podcasts. All this and more will be uploaded to the center’s website at renfrewcenter.com, when the events go live on Oct. 10.
Renfrew will also be encouraging individuals to make use of their social media initiative, #RenfrewRecharge. The hashtag will enable individuals to share the word of Renfrew’s events across social media platforms, asking users to share how they themselves will be taking advantage of the many resources to improve their awareness of their own mental health. The hashtag can be used on any social media platform, the Renfrew Center just hopes that it will spark deeper conversations and involvement in mental health awareness.
For students who may be struggling, but don’t quite know where to start in getting help, making use of the Counseling Center at West Chester University is a great first step. Located on the second floor of the Lawrence Center in room 241, the center provides triage appointments for developing counseling plans, individual psychological counseling, group counseling sessions and more.
If anything at all, the Renfrew Center hopes that individuals can take away from this experience the notion that struggling with your mental health is something that many people face; however, it does not have to be something you deal with alone. Both on-campus and through connections with the Renfrew Center, there are resources available to help you heal.
“With Renfrew, our approach to treatment has always been built on [the] healing power of relationships. We live in this individualistic culture where we hear a lot about self care, self help, and our hope is that World Mental Health Day can be a reminder that we are all wired for connection,” said DeCaro.