By Michael Schulte, Phi Delta Theta Chaplain
For many of our chapters, the 2023-24 school year is already underway. If your chapter is anything like mine, you have already hosted recruitment events, planned this semester’s social calendar, and submitted a budget for the chapter’s approval. Amidst all this planning, it is important to remember that the new semester is also a great opportunity to prioritize mental health in your chapter. It is a chance to integrate new rhythms that equip and empower each of our members to have the best semester of their academic careers.
Below are five tips for prioritizing the well-being of chapter members, ensuring that every Phi Delt has a safe and healthy fall semester.
Tip #1: Start Small. Make Time for Mental Health Moments.
If your chapter is new to mental health programming, start small. Create a five-minute Mental Health Moment at each chapter meeting. This moment could involve a short breathing exercise or a loving kindness meditation. You might also give chapter members five minutes to journal or complete a short mental health check-in. Allow these moments to model healthy coping strategies that members can use in their day-to-day lives.
Tip #2: Connect with University Resources.
If they have not done so already, it is essential that the chapter chaplain or the appropriate mental health designee contact the university wellness center to establish a relationship and learn more about the resources offered on campus. After learning about resources, the chaplain should prepare a short presentation that discusses the mental health resources offered to students on your campus. Setting aside time to discuss potential resources is a proactive strategy that allows members to connect with services before an issue intensifies.
Tip #3: Create Space for Difficult Conversations.
Conflicts often start small, but when they remain unresolved, they fester and lead to resentment. Unresolved conflict also contributes to a toxic chapter culture where members do not feel heard. Chapter officers should be proactive by scheduling time for open dialogue. These conversations might look like the chaplain, or a member of the executive committee, hosting office hours where members can voice their frustrations. Or, these conversations might be more structured discussions like Pass the Gavel where members are given the opportunity to openly and honestly share their emotions without judgment.
Tip #4: Discuss Positive Coping Strategies.
Too often, fraternity men default to drugs and alcohol to repress their emotions, resulting in destructive behaviors that hinder the overall wellness of our members and our chapters. This semester, be proactive by sharing a list of positive coping strategies. Discuss these strategies as a chapter and invite members to share times when they have used a positive coping strategy to overcome a difficult emotion.
Tip #5: Help Members Explore Their Values Through Spiritual Exploration.
College is the perfect opportunity for members to explore their values. Values exploration can look like asking members to identify their three most important values. It might also look like hosting a weekly study that examines a sacred text (i.e., the Bible, the Torah, the Qur’an, etc.) and asks members to explore how that text resonates in their lives today. For more information on facilitating spiritual conversations, see the following PowerPoint from this summer’s Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute.
Navigating a new semester can be challenging, but remember that you are not alone. Our General Headquarters staff and our volunteers are here for you, and we want to support you. As your fraternity chaplain, I am also here to be a resource for you and your chapter. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about mental health or emotional/spiritual well-being this semester.