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Cougar Health Services Anastasia Rarig

Campus representatives review mental health policies

Campus representatives review mental health policies

Thirty members of the Campus Mental Health Collaborative, including students, staff, and faculty, met last month with an expert from The JED Foundation to begin developing a comprehensive plan for suicide prevention and mental health promotion for WSU Pullman students.

The JED Foundation representative opened the meeting with the foundational recommendation that supporting students’ emotional well-being needs to be a campus-wide effort. From high-level administrators to part-time employees, we can all play critical roles in suicide prevention and mental health promotion efforts. Specifically, we need to support efforts that allow for early detection and effective intervention when a student is struggling.

In fall, members of the collaborative completed a self-assessment of relevant policies and programs. The JED Foundation representative spent the bulk of the three-hour meeting last month reviewing the WSU self-assessment and providing feedback in the nine key areas outlined below, as described in the JED model of suicide prevention:

Campus policies. Policies help establish norms, build awareness, and improve the quality of health services available to students.

Life skills development. Developing strong life skills helps students cope with stress. Some critical areas include managing friendships and relationships, problem solving, decision-making, identifying and managing emotions, healthy living, and understanding identity.

Connectedness. Research shows loneliness and isolation are significant risk factors for mental health problems and/or suicidal behavior. Students who feel connected to campus and have support from friends and family are better equipped to handle the stresses of college life.

Academic performance. Mental health is closely tied to academic performance, and the impact goes both ways. Stress from school can affect students’ mental health, and mental health issues can affect academic performance.

Student wellness. It’s important for students to understand how overall wellness, mental health, and academic performance are interrelated.

Identify students at risk. Studies show many college students who need help do not seek it out on their own.

Increase help-seeking behavior. Students are often unaware of the mental health resources available to them, feel unsure about insurance coverage and costs, or face some other barrier to seeking help.

Provide mental health and substance use disorder services. Offering high-quality mental health services is critical for preventing substance abuse among students and improving academic success.

Means restriction and environmental safety. Removing or limiting means to self-harm can help prevent suicide and improve student safety.

As a next step, the collaborative will identify priority action areas. Subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

Get personalized stress management tips

Get personalized stress management tips

Feeling stressed, need help coping, or just want personalized stress management techniques? We can help! This semester we’re launching a new text messaging program to help you relieve your stress.

We will:

  • Check in with you every other week to see how you’re doing
  • Send you weekly tips for lowering stress, customized to your individual stress level
  • Enter you to win a free Ferdinand’s ice cream grabber whenever you do a check in

To sign up, text “STRESS” to 30644. Text messages will start March 1, but you can join at any point in the semester.

For any questions about this program or our stress management workshops, give us a call at 509-335-WELL.

Developing a comprehensive plan for suicide prevention

Developing a comprehensive plan  for suicide prevention

This week our Campus Mental Health Collaborative will meet with an expert from The JED Foundation to develop a strategic plan for suicide prevention tailored to our university’s needs. Our work with JED, a national nonprofit working to promote emotional health among college students, is part of our ongoing mental health promotion efforts.

At the meeting, members of the Campus Mental Health Collaborative will review JED’s feedback on gaps and successes in student mental health support at WSU, brainstorm new ideas and resources, outline and prioritize goals, and develop a written strategic plan for improving mental health promotion on campus.

In preparation for the meeting, we conducted an initial review of our resources, policies, and programs. The review covered nine critical areas identified in the JED Campus Framework, which combines the content of a comprehensive model for suicide prevention with expert recommendations on factors related to preventing substance abuse in young people.

Our work with JED is part of the organization’s Campus Program, a nationwide initiative providing colleges and universities with tools and support to promote students’ emotional well-being. Through the program, WSU will receive customized support for developing programs and policies that build on existing student mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention efforts.

To stay connected with mental and emotional health promotion efforts at WSU, make sure you’ve subscribed to our mailing list.

Providers trained to identify suicide risk

Providers trained to identify suicide risk

Healthcare providers play a critical role in identifying and evaluating suicide risk. The Washington State Department of Health requires certain providers to complete suicide prevention training.

Oftentimes, providers have varying levels of experience with suicide prevention. Training providers in the same suicide prevention best practices ensures all our providers are on the same-page when it comes to suicide prevention.

This month, 35 of our healthcare providers completed the Suicide and Crisis Intervention training offered by the Crisis Clinic, a Seattle-based organization offering emotional support to individuals in crisis or considering suicide.

Our providers work closely with students and are often in a position to detect suicide risk. During training, our providers learned how to asses and treat students and at-risk populations, such a veterans, for suicide. They were also trained how to evaluate an individual’s risk of immediate self-harm. The training our providers took is included on the Washington State Department of Health Model List of suicide prevention trainings.

Last fall, providers from Counseling and Psychological Services, completed the Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR) training provided by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

AMSR is designed specifically for healthcare providers. It unpacks the five most common dilemmas providers face when working with someone who may be at risk for suicide, and presents best practices for addressing them.

Activities like suicide prevention training are part of a broader effort to prevent suicide of WSU students. Our Campus Mental Health Collaborative group is working to ensure the WSU community to up-to-date on best practices for supporting students’ mental health.

If you’d like to receive updates on the Campus Mental Health Collaborative, as well as other information about news and events related to mental and emotional health at WSU, make sure you subscribe to our mailing list.

3 tips for bringing your goals to life

3 tips for bringing your goals to life

It’s a new semester, a new year, and for many of us that means new goals. Whether you’re setting academic, fitness, or personal development goals, we all need a little help with the follow through. Try using some of our expert tips for creating and achieving your goals.

Set SMART goals.

We often think of goals as a result we want to achieve. For example, getting an A or fitting into a swimsuit. These are outcome goals. Reaching outcome goals is easier when they are specific, measurable, action-oriented (or attainable), realistic, and time-specific. You can check out Cougar Success for details on setting SMART goals.

An important part of creating SMART goals is identifying smaller actionable steps to get you there. Process goals are the actions and habits that will help you achieve your desired outcome.

For example, your SMART outcome goal might be to lose 1 pound per week and 20 pounds by July. For this outcome, your process goals could be to go the gym twice a week, pack lunches instead of eating out at the CUB, and weigh yourself to track your progress.

Anticipate barriers.

Try visualizing a time during the semester you think meeting your goals will be difficult. Imagine it’s the middle of the semester, you’re overworked and tired, and you really don’t feel like going to the gym. Or maybe you didn’t have time to buy healthy groceries. What are you going to do?

Anticipating these kinds of barriers can help you stick to your goal. On days you don’t feel like going to the gym, you might plan to call a friend for support or YouTube a workout at home (pro tip: Fitness Blender has free workouts online for all skill levels). And while you planned to not eat out at the CUB, life happens and you need to eat lunch. So, instead of choosing pizza, you could buy a salad.

Review your goals.

Check in regularly to review your progress toward your goals. Which steps have you completed? Which ones do you need to revise? If there’s a goal you haven’t met, don’t sweat it. Rework some of your process goals to be more achievable for the next month.

It’s important to remember that we’re all human and sometimes we don’t meet our goals perfectly. The key to success is making the best choice you can with what you have in your current situation.

If you want help setting and achieving goals, there are lots of resources available to you on campus.  Visit an advisor at the Academic Success and Career Center, take a class or talk to a personal trainer at UREC, or talk to your doctor or nutritionist at HWS. You can also follow Coug Health on Facebook to get reminders about achieving a healthy, balanced life.

TOM FORD eyewear sale Feb. 15

TOM FORD eyewear sale Feb. 15

Looking to up your frame game this spring? Good news: TOM FORD eyewear is coming to campus! Join our vision clinic for a special sale event just for WSU students.

TOM FORD eyewear sale event
Wednesday, February 15
CUE Atrium
10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Get a 25 percent discount on glasses and sunglasses, and enter to win a free pair of frames! We’ll have over 200 styles of TOM FORD eyewear available to try on and purchase.

For any questions about the sale event or our vision care services, give us a call at 509-335-0360.

6 tips for performing your best during finals

6 tips for performing your best during finals

It’s finals week, and a lot of Cougs are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with all they have to do. To overcome test anxiety and perform your best this week, try some of these tips for studying effectively and staying well during finals.

1. Take short breaks. One study method you may find effective is the Pomodoro Technique, where you focus on a task for 25 minutes, and then take a five minute break. These short breaks give your mind a much-needed rest, and give you a chance to hydrate, get a snack or check your social media feeds.

2. Break up big tasks. Breaking up a big task into smaller steps can help it feel manageable and make it easier to get started. For example, if you need to write a paper you could break it down like this: find research articles, take notes, write paper outline, include citations, write introduction, etc. If you’re struggling to get started on a big project, make it your first task simply to open a new file and create a title page.

3. Set specific study goals and deadlines. Once you’ve broken your big tasks down into manageable chunks, set deadlines or schedule time for each step. Instead of just writing “study for chem final” in your planner, try setting a specific goal like make flash cards, review lecture slides, rewrite class notes, meet with study group or complete practice test. Planning study sessions with specific goals will help you study smarter.

4. Eat that frog. Let’s imagine you have to eat a frog today. Because eating a frog sounds awful, you keep putting it off. But once you eat the frog and get it out of the way, the rest of your day will be easy by comparison.

What’s the most difficult and stressful task on your to-do list? Try tackling that task first – eating the frog – to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and help you feel ready to take on everything else.

5. Take care of yourself. Having a healthy body and mind can help you succeed during finals week. This means eating before you take a test, staying hydrated, scheduling some self-care activities and getting enough sleep.

6. Be aware of what you’re telling yourself. Try not to get angry if you get off track with your study plan or procrastinate. Getting mad at yourself only increases your stress levels, and it can create a cycle of procrastination, anger and more procrastination. The key is to practice self-compassion.

Follow us on Facebook to get more helpful tips on staying well during finals.

Alcohol and coping with stress

We’re well into the semester and many of us have stressful deadlines and looming final projects. If you feel your stress rising with the workload, you’re not alone.

A lot of Cougs feel stressed by their academic load. In 2016, 83 percent of Cougs reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do.

When life gets stressful, it can be tempting to cope by drinking. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can lower anxiety and make you feel relaxed. While this may calm your nerves for a while, the effects are short-lived.

While drinking may make you feel better in the moment, regular drinking and binge drinking can increase stress and anxiety. And long-term, heavy drinking can alter the brain’s chemistry, making you more susceptible to stress.   

While occasionally drinking to relax or socialize with friends can be healthy and normal, regularly drinking to cope with stress can become a dangerous habit. How do you know when your drinking is problematic? Ask yourself:

  • Is drinking the only way you cope with stress?
  • Do you have to drink more to get the same benefits?
  • Do you feel anxious if you are unable to drink?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may want to speak with a health care provider or counselor about your drinking habits.

Drinking doesn’t address the underlying causes of stress. Instead, focus on ways you can reduce your overall stress levels, or increase your resiliency to stress and support your mental health.

Consider trying activities that help you deal with stress successfully, like:

You can learn more about alcohol, stress management, mindfulness and other topics by attending our free workshops listed on CougSync.

Direct, delegate or distract to prevent violence

We’ve all been there before – you’re walking across campus and you see another student in a situation where they might need some help. Maybe you overhear a couple arguing, or see someone who looks really upset about the phone call they just received.

Most of us want to help when we see a situation that concerns us, but we often feel unable to do something to help.

So what stops us from helping in these moments? We all face barriers that keep us from taking action, even when we really want to or think we should.

You may have experienced one of these common barriers:

  • There are other people around who will probably do something, so I don’t have to.
  • I don’t want to embarrass myself.
  • No one else noticed or is doing anything.
  • I don’t want to get hurt.
  • My friends will give me a hard time if I do something.
  • I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.
  • I’m shy.
  • I hate conflict.
  • It’s none of my business.
  • I don’t want to get involved.

These kinds of thoughts are completely normal. Depending on the specific situation and our individual preferences, we all experience different barriers to taking action.

But, there are many ways to intervene in a situation that concerns you. You may still be able to find a way to help that feels achievable.

Consider these three approaches, and think about which ones you might be able to use next time you see someone in an unsafe situation.

Direct – do something yourself.  Approach the person you’re concerned about and ask, “Hey, what’s going on here?” or “Are you okay?” or “Do you need help?”

Delegate – ask someone else for help. Ask a friend, residence hall advisor or mentor to step in. If necessary, call the police.

Distract – Diffuse the situation by diverting people’s attention. Pretend you are lost and ask for directions. Tell people there’s free food in the CUB. Start a conversation about an unrelated topic.

Interested in learning more about how you can take action to prevent violence? Request a workshop for your group, chapter, residence hall or department.

Insurance basics for Cougs

Insurance basics for Cougs

About 66 percent of Cougs are still on their parents’ health insurance plan! Whether you use your parents’ insurance or have your own plan, our healthcare system is complex and learning to navigate it on your own can be tough. Here are some insurance basics to keep in mind next time you make a medical appointment.

Check to see if your healthcare provider is in-network

Insurance companies have contract agreements with certain healthcare providers, who are considered in-network. Insurance plans generally provide more coverage for services performed by in-network providers, which lowers the amount you have to pay out of pocket.

You can usually find a list of in-network providers in your area on your insurance company’s website. Or, you can check your healthcare provider’s website or call them to get details on what your insurance will cover.

For Health & Wellness Services, check our list of contracted insurance companies or contact our billing office for details. If you have WSU insurance as an international student or graduate assistant, you can find more info on our student insurance website.

Find out if you need a referral

If you need to see a specialist or get a specific medical service, you may need a referral. If you’re visiting a healthcare provider other than your primary doctor’s office, check with your insurance company to find out whether or not you need a referral.

If you need a referral and don’t get one in advance, you may have trouble getting your insurance company to cover the service. If you need to see a specialist for any reason, our medical clinic can help you with referrals to local providers.

Know your annual premium, deductible and copay

An annual premium is the amount you or your parents pay to have your health insurance plan. In any given year, you have to pay a set amount of medical expenses out of pocket before your insurance company will pay for any services. This is called a deductible.

At each medical appointment, you may also have a copay or co-insurance. After you’ve met your deductible for the year, all you have to pay is your copay (a set amount of money) or co-insurance (a set percentage of total cost) and your insurance company will cover the rest of your bill.

If you aren’t sure how much your visit will cost, your healthcare provider’s billing office can help you figure out your coverage and how much you’ll owe.

Check your Explanation of Benefits (EOB)

After your insurance company pays for a medical service you’ve received, they’ll send you a document called an EOB. Your EOB will tell you what the claim was for, whether it was approved and for how much.

Depending on your insurance company and the preferences you’ve set, you may receive your EOB in the mail or electronically. When it arrives, make sure the information is correct and contact your insurance company if you have questions.

Explore your options

If you don’t have health insurance, low-cost insurance options are available through the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange. Open enrollment for 2017 plans is happening now!

If you need help navigating your insurance options or have any concerns about how to pay for medical care, you are always welcome to contact our billing office.