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New support group at Southeast helps non-religious students with their struggles
The Secular Student Support Group at Southeast provides non-religious students with the opportunity to open up about themselves without fear of judgement. The recently-formed group meets on a weekly basis in the Scully Building.
The founders put a strong focus on acceptance and confidentiality among students who attend the clinic. One of the people who started the group is Southeast graduate student Danielle Wash, who is completing her Master degree in mental health and comes from a non-religious background herself.
“Oftentimes, living in this part of Missouri, kind of in the Bible belt, it’s really hard to have to hide your faith or lack thereof,” Wash said. “Our purpose is to help people find that sense of community or that sense of acceptance they might not be able to find in their families or maybe with their friends who are religious.”
Southeast students can attend the support group for free, and people from the community can be a part of the clinic for a small sliding-scale fee. Students who attend the meetings can decide on what they would like to personally get out of the group, and members help hold each other accountable to achieve their goals.
“Goals are kind of interesting. So in group counseling, members will set their own goals, and it’s up to the group to help members achieve their own goals,” Wash said. “Really, the goal … as a collective, is to make that safe environment and to normalize what you are feeling, but also find a connection with people.”
The group leaders understand how students who are not religious could struggle with their own beliefs around friends or family who do practice religious faith.
“There is a sense of having to hide it, having to be shameful if you are not religious,” Walsh said. “Someone might say ‘I’ll pray for you,’ or ‘Have you thought about joining my Bible study — we do it differently.’ This is just a place to normalize you don’t feel that way, and that's okay.”
The Secular Student Support Group meets every Wednesday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Scully Room 318. Students can attend meetings in-person or via Zoom.