The Kaʻau Program for Student Mental Health and Wellness has numerous support services for students to utilize. (Photo courtesy of Brooke Conway)
By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer
Being a college student has its ups and downs. While meeting new people and exploring various subjects can be fulfilling, sometimes it can be difficult to manage academics or cope with unexpected changes. For students who may need additional support, the Kaʻau Program for Student Mental Health and Wellness provides confidential, personal counseling, and community referral services to registered Kapiʻolani Community College students.
“Students are more than welcome to come in and we can assess their goals and needs,” said Brooke Conway, the Kaʻau wellness counselor. “That might result in short-term support, focusing on building skills or coping strategies that are based on their needs. This might also come with referrals to other community services or long-term mental health care. Ultimately, it depends on what the student’s needs are.”
The two counselors and office assistants that work for Kaʻau are licensed mental health professionals and master’s level interns. In addition to Conway, Cindy Melim is one of the mental health counselors and confidential advocates for the program. Each semester, Conway estimates that 50 to 60 new students reach out to Kaʻau.
“I’m one person,” said Conway. “I would say more students could utilize the program, though we would most likely require more resources to meet those needs for a campus that’s our size.”
Students interested in reaching out to Kaʻau should complete a contact form. After, one-on-one meetings can be scheduled. They are typically held via Zoom, though students can request to have in-person meetings depending on their schedules.
In addition to personal counseling, Kaʻau also offers wellness education services, dubbed Wellness Wednesdays, and had opportunities to connect with Kaʻau counselors on Talk-story Tuesdays.
“Wellness Wednesdays came up during Covid-19 as a way to get more resources out to students,” said Conway. “I reached out and collaborated with some of our other mental health and wellness counselors on the other community college campuses. This included Leeward, Windward, Honolulu CC, and Kauaʻi CC. We put together weekly workshops based on various wellness topics and everyone’s areas of expertise. Topics ranged from how to be a good listener and how to have a successful semester. It has continued to be offered every semester since we started offering it in 2021.”
Students are asked to register in advance for virtual Wellness Wednesdays and are encouraged to join as many sessions as they feel comfortable with.
“It is a positive space for people to learn different strategies and to connect with students across the community college system,” said Conway. “Most of our students are online right now, so we are continuing to keep the virtual spaces open. We’ll just see how it evolves.”
Talk-story Tuesday is a weekly drop-in hour that the Kaʻau program does in partnership with the Title IX program. According to Conway, this was established prior to Covid in 2018 with the intent of building stronger relationships with people around campus. These events were originally held in person, though they are currently being held virtually over Zoom.
“It is an opportunity just to chat and connect with us,” said Conway. “I think sometimes an office might be intimidating and people might not feel comfortable, so we wanted to find a way to have people come talk to us and see that we are real people too.”
Conway encourages students to reach out if they are struggling and reiterates that Kaʻau is free and confidential. However, there are limitations to confidentiality when health or safety issues are present.
“Sometimes the hesitancy to reach out may stem from people not wanting others to know about their problems,” said Conway. “Sometimes it is just taking a chance. My philosophy is to be one half-step behind the student. I am never going to push what I think would be the solution to what is going on in their life. I am really here to guide them to what they think is going to be the best solution. I can offer wisdom and consideration, but ultimately, the choice for any change that students may be going through is theirs alone.”
The hours of operation for the Kaʻau Program for Student Mental Health and Wellness are Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed on weekends and holidays. The program can also be contacted via phone at (808) 734-9585 and email at email@example.com.