Picture this: a Counseling Center mental health mural

Amanda Oropeza

The Whittier College Student Counseling Center (SCC) is a place that works to help students overcome the emotional and psychological challenges that arise from college life. Unfortunately, many students on campus are not taking advantage of the resources that are available to them at the SCC because they are either not aware of the resources, or are too afraid to try them out. 

In response to the lack of awareness, fourth-year Environmental Action Advocate of the Associated Students of Whittier College (ASWC) Senate Andy Bertelsen has begun to discuss the possibility of hiring an artist to paint a mural on the SCC building. 

Bertelsen believes that the SCC building is one of the most important buildings on campus because it provides students with a safe place to work out their feelings. “Having a safe space where people can go and engage in conversation creates unity within the community. With everything going on right now in the world, that is something that we really need,” said Bertelsen, who is an advocate for mental health. 

He believes that mental health is vital and should be acknowledged more. “Hopefully [the mural] would encourage others to seek out what it is that makes them happy.” He hopes that this mural will not only be beautiful to look at, but that it will also serve as a legacy to leave behind. 

This mural will be painted by  local artist Dennis McGonagle, who has painted other murals around Uptown Whittier and has some art pieces in the Whittier Museum. Bertelsen is still discussing the project with the Whittier College alumni, so nothing is confirmed as of yet, but there are ideas and plans that he and others are putting into place to create something that will truly be worthwhile. There has also been a push for incorporating the Whittier College art department, giving them a chance to exercise their talents and better their College. 

The SCC and Senate want the mural to promote themes of tranquility. They have yet to choose a specific outline for the mural, but they know that they want a mural that advertises the building as a safe and comfortable place. 

Not only is Bertelsen planning to have the mural painted, but he is also working on changing out the furniture as well. The center has acknowledged that the overall arrangement of the building as of now is good, but there is always room for improvement. One of the people seeing to these renovations is SCC member Tim Hillman, who works alongside Bertelsen and Director of the Student Counseling Center Rebecca Romberger. Hillman wants to give the SCC a calming atmosphere. “Our goal is to create an outdoor space of peace and tranquility where students can go before or after a counseling session and reflect on their thoughts.” Hillman believes that new furniture, plants, and the addition of the mural will facilitate a more calming atmosphere inside and outside the building.

Bertelsen is seeking help from student groups on campus to help raise money for the mural.  “We have reached out and met with members of almost all the student organizations on campus,” said Hillman, “and have an overwhelming amount of support. The Sustainability Club, First Year Class Council, ICC, Media Council, Business Leadership Club, and Social Justice Coalition very generously decided to help us fund this project. Other organizations, like the Mental Health Club, Drama Club, and Franklin Society, are on board for moral support as well.”  

It has not been stated exactly when the mural will be started, let alone finished, but the idea is being discussed. 

Counseling services are provided at no cost to students currently enrolled at the College. The SCC can be reached at counselingcenter@whittier.edu, and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed daily from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call (562) 907-4239.  If you need support outside of these hours, call the After-Hour RN Telephone Advice Line at (562) 464-4548, and push 1 to be connected. For more information on the SCC, visit www.whittier.edu/counseling.