In the pursuit of becoming a more recovery-friendly campus, Ursinus College’s Office of Prevention and Advocacy has partnered with a local non-profit, Recovery-Friendly PA. Recovery-Friendly PA provided a “Supportive Supervision” training to division and department heads in January, and Katie Bean, the director of the Office of Prevention and Advocacy, recently hosted another “Allies of Recovery” training available to anyone on campus. However, most recently, the Office of Prevention and Advocacy added their first Peer Recovery Support Specialist to the staff, Karen Miller. The part-time position is funded through a grant recently given to the Office of Prevention and Advocacy by the Independence Blue Cross.
Describing her path to becoming a recovery specialist, Miller cited her childhood development, “Not only was I not taught to talk about my feelings and emotions while growing up, but it was also frowned upon if I or others struggled with any mental health issues. Things like anxiety, depression, [and] seeing a therapist [were] not something to mention.” With the pressure to suppress emotions and to hide mental health issues, Miller said, “I cut off all feelings, kept ignoring the obvious insanity that consumed many days, weeks, months and years of what I referred to as my life.”
After spending a portion of her life feeling invalidated and deprived of emo- tional stability, Miller explained, “I finally hit the wall, full force. I could not live another moment like I had been. I needed to learn how to live and not just exist.” For Miller, this change of perspective eventually led to a desire to help others to do the same.
Miller believes that everyone’s path is different and unique. “One of the most important things I can do for students, faculty or anyone is meeting the individ- ual where they are at. Wherever on their journey they are,” she said. Miller continued, “Recovery intertwines with our mental health and even if you just want to say, ‘I’m going to try to alter any behaviors, but not feelings, and be kinder to myself,’ that’s where you’re at and that’s where you begin. It may change tomorrow, it may not. Either way it’s where I want to meet you.”
Miller will soon be sending out a short survey for students and faculty to complete. She wants to know what the Ursinus community would like to see on campus. Miller elaborated that this could mean “conversations, a rotating meeting once a week, group activities that could possibly be funded for minimal or no cost to the students, volunteering at a soup kitchen, [or] exploring the many different types of programs and/or resources available.” Miller hosted a meeting on Sunday, February 26 in the Bears Den at 5:30pm to open a dialogue with students about her role in the Ursinus community.
Since the position is grant-funded, Miller’s time at Ursinus will end in November 2023. However, with her understanding nature and eagerness to help others, come November, Miller could well have made a big impact on the entire Ursinus community. Her mentality is one that has the potential to transform the lives of many and should be known to all on campus, as she believes that “every human being deserves to live life or thrive and not just exist or survive.”
Kate Horan firstname.lastname@example.org