Citing Staff Shortage, Indigo Peer Counseling Takes Hiatus

Indigo, the peer counseling group aimed at addressing issues of race and class in mental health, is taking a hiatus this semester due to a staff shortage.

Anant T. Pai ’19, a peer counselor for Indigo, said the group did not have the number of counselors needed to meet Harvard University Health Services requirements for peer counseling groups. Pai said Indigo counselors plan to remain involved with mental health issues on campus during the hiatus.

Indigo Peer Counseling
Indigo Peer Counseling is a new student group on campus that offers counseling on issues related to race, socioeconomic status, foster care, and more. Counseling will begin on Saturday, February 20 in their new office in the basement of Adams House H entryway.

“We’re going to be focusing on community counseling in the meantime, working with cultural organizations and doing mental health workshops, because we think that is also an area of high impact,” he said.

The group launched last semester with a goal to increase counseling for students around issues of race and class. Henri C. Garrison ’16, Indigo’s founder, said the group was formed as a resource for traditionally underserved members of the student body.

“In terms of informal conversations I’ve had with students of color about how they were feeling about seeing Indigo out there and seeing that there was this initiative, they were very very excited about it,” Garrison said.

The group worked closely with Barbara Lewis, chief of Counseling and Mental Health Services at HUHS. In an emailed statement, Lewis said that Indigo was in the midst of improving its training program.

“Indigo began last semester with a small group that spent much of its time preparing the space and training staff,” Lewis wrote. “The goal for this fall is to recruit members in order to build a more robust training program before staffing Indigo for peer counseling, and we are excited for the group to move towards being available as a resource for students.”

Garrison said Indigo faced challenges during its initial stages.

“The idea was to do a trial run, see what we get, see if it is going in the direction that we want, with the understanding that this is very experimentational,” Garrison said. “The priority was essentially just getting off the ground, and that’s what we did.”

Paul J. Barreira, director of HUHS, also commented on the challenges Indigo faced as a new group.

“[HUHS staff] were willing to take it on with [Garrison] in terms of training and supervisors, Adams House was willing to find a space,” he said. “But then it kind of lost the momentum because we didn’t have enough people and we didn’t have enough experience doing it.”

The peer counseling group is one of several on campus: Room 13, Eating Concerns Hotline and Outreach, Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors, Contact Peer Counseling, and RESPONSE Peer Counseling.

Barreira said he thinks Indigo will be up and running again in the spring, after the group has time for more preparations.

“I think it’ll start up again for sure because everybody’s committed to doing it,” Barreira said. “We’re committed to doing the training and the supervision, and I’m sure there are students who are committed to that type of peer counseling program.”

—Staff writer Menaka V. Narayanan can be reached at menaka.narayanan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mnarayanan97.

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