Stepping up for Mental Health

How Lambda Chi Alpha is supporting mental health through various resources

With lockdowns and social distancing taking their toll on young Americans’ mental health, Lambda Chi Alpha is stepping up to the challenge of providing chapters and Brothers with the resources they need to persevere and get through the pandemic. 

When local communities in the United States first locked down to beat the spread of the coronavirus in March of 2020, many expected and were told by state and local authorities that they would only face two weeks of isolation. As the pandemic wore on for many months, Lambda Chi Alpha chapters were quick to initiate conversations about mental health and ask for additional resources to deal with the challenges presented by social distancing.

“Our chapters are social groups and during this antisocial time they lacked the ability to create the strong support and sense of belonging that they normally would,” said Lambda Chi Alpha Director of Health and Wellness Jessica Ashton. “One of the first things we did was create a list of COVID resources and things our chapters could do. We listed how much contact people could have according to their local regulations and what each campus environment allowed them to do.”

By providing clear direction on what Brothers could and could not do, Lambda Chi Alpha created a clear framework around how to maintain fraternal activities during the pandemic. As part of their efforts to maintain overall organization and chapter health, Lambda Chi Alpha staff members conducted frequent chapter surveys. Surprisingly, the results of these surveys, which measured critical fraternal values such as accountability, shared social experiences, solidarity and belonging, were somewhat positive. 

“Even in the context of a pandemic, the resilience of our chapters shows that they are creating environments where men can belong and feel supported. This is a testament to how fraternities can really help young men,” said Ashton.

Despite this unprecedented disruption, Brothers were rising to the occasion in stride, installing mental health leadership positions, actively engaging with chapter coaches and having more conversations on mental health.

“An unintended—and positive—consequence of the pandemic has been that students are talking more openly about mental health because of COVID,” said Ashton. “Students and even parents who were less receptive to or unwilling to address mental health are finally willing to sit down and have conversations.”

One of Lambda Chi’s most important assets during the pandemic is its enduring partnership with The Jed Foundation, a national mental health awareness and suicide prevention non-profit for young adults. With much of school and interactions moving online, colleges have had more difficulty identifying young adults in need of assistance and support. The foundation’s “You Can Help a Friend” instruction series has helped overcome this limitation by training fraternity brothers and staff how to recognize and respond to signs of emotional distress.

Early survey results indicate that the program is a success.

“Many of our staff members and chapter coaches have been through this intensive program and another 50 facilitators are currently being trained to ensure that the program can reach every Brother in need,” said Ashton. 

Empowering Brothers to better understand mental health and look out for each other, the Jed program has been critical to ensuring that no Brother is forgotten .

“Brothers helping Brothers and their communities is at the core of the Lambda Chi Alpha ethos,” said Ashton. “As an organization dedicated to developing young men into tomorrow’s leaders, we’re excited by how many of our brothers have driven themselves to become mental health advocates and an effective last line of defense during this pandemic for Brothers in need.”

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