Senate talks mental health with Indea Powe

Katie Fata

Indea Powe, a new addition to IWU’s Consultation and Counseling Services (CCS), focuses specifically on cognitive behavioral therapy coupled with aspects of mindfulness and solution-focused therapies at IWU.

IWU Senate hosted the second of their interview series “Sit Down With Senate” with new counselor Indea Powe on March 17. 

The interview series presents conversations with important members of the campus community and is hosted by juniors Jack McElveen and Julia Hilt. The two have previously interviewed President Georgia Nugent as a part of the series.

Powe joined Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) in January. Dean of students Karla Carney-Hall announced Powe’s hiring to the campus due to “the increased mental health needs of all students and the unique needs of our students of color,” according to her email on Jan. 18.  

McElveen and Hilt decided to interview Powe for that exact reason. 

“I wanted to be involved in this event because mental health and mitigating the stigma of seeking mental health resources in BIPOC communities are passions of mine,” Hilt said. 

The interview centered around introducing Powe to the campus, with McElveen and Hilt asking questions about Powe’s background and her experiences as a Black woman working with mental health. 

“I was involved as a moderator because I currently sit as the Advocacy and Awareness Commissioner on the Student Senate Executive Board,” Hilt said. “Under my position, one of my many focal points is regarding the mental health of our students, as well as creating brave and safe spaces for all students, especially marginalized students.”

Powe, who studied at Illinois State University (ISU), said that she entered her career because she understood the impact mental health can have on a person and wanted to be able to help people through it. 

When asked why she wanted to work at IWU, Powe shared that her experiences attending ISU, a predominantly white institution, taught her a lot about being a BIPOC student. 

“I have the lived experience, and a desire to help students navigate what I have had to navigate,” Powe said. 

Powe shared a story about an experience she had as a family therapist, and the microaggressions that happened to her in that time. She was working with a family in which the father reached out to her supervisors and claimed she couldn’t do her job. Powe said that she learned how to not only stand up for herself but also understand when she needed to remove herself from a situation for her own mental health. 

Powe, after introducing herself, then asked the moderators and audience questions about mental health on IWU’s campus. She first asked students to share how comfortable they felt reaching out to receive counseling.

Wednesday’s event was hosted in Hansen Student Center, with a small in-person audience and broadcasted on Zoom.
Photo: Katie Fata

 

“Being a Black woman, just being able to be open and vulnerable is important. I had to get over saying ‘I think I need help,’” Hilt said. 

McElveen said that college students need the opportunity to break the barriers between them and working on their mental health. 

“In high school, I don’t think I even really knew what mental health was. I didn’t realize I could have these like mental check-ups and we have an amazing staff here to do that,” McElveen said. 

Powe also asked about the ways IWU has both positively and negatively impacted students’ mental health. 

“Positively, I have created and fostered relationships that keep me grounded, that help me discover more of myself, and that bring me joy,” Hilt said. “Negatively, I feel IWU has impacted my mental health by at times making me, as a Black female student, feel used.”

Hilt said that she believes it is necessary to be accurate in IWU’s representation when the University is marketing to prospective students. 

“When magazines, billboards and booklets are plastered with BIPOC faces but the student visits and sees primarily white faculty, staff and student faces, we are providing a false narrative that is not fair to these students and families,” Hilt said. 

After talking about the way that representation impacts mental health, Powe asked how prioritizing mental health felt to students.

“Mental health can be hard to acknowledge,” Junior Daniel Maisch said. “I am willing and open but it’s one of those things where it’s the first thing to go.”

The interview ended with Powe explaining to students the importance of reaching out to CCS and how they can do so. 

To make a counseling appointment, students can call (309) 556-3052 to request to meet with Powe or any other counselor