College Prioritizes Mental Health: ACM Launches Holistic Mental Health Network

Kristin Kehrwald 301-784-5152


Holistic Mental Health Network

Allegany College of Maryland has launched a Holistic Mental Health Network to better help students assess their needs and access college and community resources. Nationwide college students are reporting higher rates and incidents 
of stress, anxiety, and depression. 


Allegany College of Maryland Launches Holistic Mental Health Network

CUMBERLAND, Md. (Oct. 13, 2021) – Attending college is stressful in the best of circumstances but attending college amid a multi-year pandemic is taking a toll on millions of degree-seeking students nationally. Even at a small college, it can be easy for students to feel alone or overwhelmed and fall through the cracks. On the advice of its students, Allegany College of Maryland has launched a Holistic Mental Health Network to help students better identify their needs and access available college and community resources.

“If we’re to help students ‘stay the course’ and remain in school until degree completion, we must – as an institution, and more broadly, as a nation of educators – do a better job of communicating about, and connecting students to, available resources. Students are facing incredible challenges in their everyday lives like financial pressures, food or housing insecurity, personal or family job loss, and complex family dynamics. It’s manifesting in higher reports of stress, anxiety and depression among students,” said Cynthia Bambara, president of ACM. 

Because academic, work and personal issues can interfere with one’s success, the Holistic Mental Health Network focuses on the wellbeing and resilience of each individual person and is built upon a foundation of self-care, meaning that:

  • Students may view the Network as a staircase; the first step begins with self-care (bottom) and builds toward crisis care (top), with steps of more help from others in-between. 
  • After evaluating where they land on the staircase (also known as a continuum of care), students may click on each step to see all the suggestions and college and community resources available to them. 
  • Students may act on those suggestions and/or access those resources.

Accessing the Holistic Mental Health Network
Students may access the Network at, through the college’s Student Counseling webpage or within the Student Lounge on BrightSpace. ACM Student Services Coordinator and Operations Specialist Renee Gibson is available to answer questions, assist students through the Holistic Mental Health Network’s self-assessment process, and also offer emotional support and guidance. Her office is in Room 12 of the College Center, and she may be reached at 301-784-5206

A sampling of resources available to students currently attending Allegany College of Maryland include:

  • Online screening tool for depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance use, post-traumatic stress, eating habits and more. 
  • On-site counseling services through UPMC Counselor LaDawn Yoder during limited hours while the college is in session. 
  • Off-site counseling services through UPMC Western Maryland and access to crisis counselors. 
  • Private referrals for counseling and alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation programs. 
  • Online therapy for veterans.
  • Domestic violence and sexual assault support services through ACM’s partnership with the Family Crisis Resource Center.
  • The Pantry.
  • Emergency Grants through the ACM Foundation

Employee Trained to Offer Help
Allegany College of Maryland has a long history of providing care that looks at the whole person and considers their physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. 

  • A number of faculty and staff have completed Mental Health First Aid to prepare them to offer initial help to individuals with the signs and symptoms of mental illness or in a crisis, and connect them with the appropriate professional, peer, social, or self-help care tactic. Koala bear stickers on their office doors or office space make them easily identifiable to students. 
  • The college is also part of the Wellness Ambassadors program offered through UPMC Western Maryland in which community members are trained to connect with trained culture of wellness, provide encouragement and connect people to information and resources for the mind, body and spirit. Students may contact Debby Hardinger at 301-784-5630 to work with a campus Wellness Ambassador. 
  • Many faculty and staff trained in the tenets of mind-body medicine through the college’s Mind-Body Connection initiative lead mind-body skills groups that are open to student participants and incorporate those practices into their curriculum. 

For more about ACM’s Holistic Mental Health Network or the college’s Counseling Services, individuals are asked to contact Renee Gibson at 301-784-5206.

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