A new journal placed by Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) near the swing at Mirror Lake has prompted many UConn students to open up and share their milestones, struggles and personal thoughts.
Dr. Elizabeth Cracco, Director of CMHS, said the swing journal was inspired by a story on the news about a “Kindred Spirit” mailbox on a beach in North Carolina where people wrote their innermost thoughts.
“When CMHS moved to Arjona we really enjoyed the amazing views of the pond, and noticed no matter what time of day or season, folks were hanging out on the swings,” Dr. Cracco said.
CMHS is currently doing many projects focused on the importance of empathy and connection in fostering an emotionally healthy community. Dr. Cracco says that CMHS often hears a great deal about loneliness while working with students. The “Kindred Spirit” mailbox appeared to be a simple, quiet device that helped people feel less alone and CMHS wanted to create something similar at UConn.
“I think it helps for people to see how similar our hopes and struggles are,” Dr. Cracco said. “It’s a way to listen to each other. We ask folks to leave an encouraging message for others.”
Most of the feedback CMHS has heard about the swing journal has been very positive. People write in the journal to share the big things that have happened in their lives, as well as when they just need to think. Dr. Cracco believes the “old-fashioned” nature of the experience is an important factor.
“You are in a beautiful natural setting, taking pen to paper like people have done for centuries,” Cracco said.
The swing journal is kept in a box by the tree the Mirror Lake swing is attached to. The cover of the box encourages visitors to “leave a positive comment” and talk about why they chose to come to the swing as well as what they experience there.
The box contains a journal, pens, several CMHS pamphlets, yellow suicide awareness buttons and a card with a 24-hour toll-free confidential Sexual Assault Crisis Services hotline number.
The subject matter of the journal entries varies greatly. One entry, dated September 22, reads, “I’m here with my girlfriend, eating Moe’s, swinging and making memories. We’ve come here to hang out before and I must say it’s very nice.”
Another entry from September 25 is more serious, with the writer discussing how they never thought they would question something as “big” as their gender and how they hope that next year they will have the courage to tell their professors to use their correct name and pronouns.
They author also left advice for those struggling with similar issues.
“If you have any doubts about your own gender, don’t feel pressured to choose everything right away,” they wrote.
For those who do not get a chance to stop by the swing, CMHS often posts journal entries they find inspiring on their Facebook page.
As for how long the journal will remain by the swing, CMHS does not have a timeline and has no plans to discontinue it.
Helen Stec is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.