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Cougar Health Services mental health

Pilot stress program helps over 150 Cougs

Pilot stress program helps over 150 Cougs

We’re helping over 150 Cougs lower their stress with our interactive pilot text message program. Every week we check in with students to see how they’re doing, then send them personalized tips for relieving stress.

According to National College Health Assessment data over the years, WSU students consistently report stress as the most common health-related factor affecting their academic performance. In 2016, 51.6 percent of Cougs said they experienced more than average stress in the past 12 months.

We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the stress management texting program, and we’re eager to offer it to students again next year.

Moving forward, we want to collaborate with campus partners to increase the number of activities and resources to help Cougs lower their stress. And we’re exploring the possibility of creating a similar program just for graduate students.

We were able to provide the pilot stress management program with support from student technology fees and student activity fees.

Supporting health in the Greek community

Following their recent student-led moratorium, Greek leaders reached out to Health & Wellness Services staff for support and resources. Together we’re developing action plans tailored to each individual chapter to address public health concerns like violence, substance abuse, and mental health.

We worked with student leaders from individual chapters to survey their members and assess their attitudes and concerns around these issues. Over 2,900 Greek students responded to our survey on violence, and our survey on substance abuse is in progress.

After the surveys, our next step is to meet with each chapter to review their specific results and provide some initial educational information. So far, we’ve met with 39 chapters about violence prevention and continue to meet about substance abuse and mental health.

Why these specific topics? Research shows alcohol use, drug use, and mental health concerns can negatively affect college students’ academic performance in a variety of ways.

The surveys we conducted this semester show many Greek students are drinking to cope with stress. And according to the 2016 National College Health Assessment, 13.4 percent of Greek students experience academic difficulties due to alcohol.

Moving forward, we will provide each chapter leader with reports on survey results and suggestions for how they can promote healthy behaviors in their chapter.

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.

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.

Campus Mental Health Collaborative launched

Aerial view of Pullman campus

On October 27, we launched the Campus Mental Health Collaborative, a new group of WSU staff, students and faculty. The Campus Mental Health Collaborative will work together to implement a comprehensive public health framework to promote mental health and prevent suicide of WSU students.

In our first meeting, campus partners discussed two initial projects, SAMHSA’s Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant program and The JED Foundation campus program. These projects, and future efforts of the collaborative, focus on preventing suicide, destigmatizing mental health disorders and promoting help-seeking behavior in the long term.

At the meeting, collaborators from a wide variety of groups shared their ongoing efforts to support student mental health. Notably, student groups including ASWSU and To Write Love On Her Arms talked about ways they are engaging the campus community to destigmatize mental illness and promote mental health resources on campus, including many events and activities taking place this month.

You can find more details on our initial projects and our collaborators’ ongoing efforts in our meeting notes.

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

Show your support for mental health

Show support for mental health

At WSU, we want to create a campus culture that is supportive and educated about mental and emotional health.

Mental health conditions affect all of society, including many of us here at WSU. In our 2016 NCHA survey data, 34.8 percent of Cougs reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function in the last year.

This month, groups across campus are hosting events to raise awareness about mental and emotional health. Learn more and show your support by attending an event!

Mental health awareness campaign

To kick off the month, we’re partnering with ASWSU and student group To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) to host a mental health awareness campaign Nov. 1-4. Together, we hope to destigmatize mental illness and mental health problems.

For event information and mental health resources, follow ASWSU on Facebook or Twitter.

Campus Connect suicide prevention training

Wednesday, Nov. 2

This training covers facts and statistics about college student suicide, warning signs and how to intervene during a crisis. The training is free and all students are welcome to attend. Check out training times, and sign up on CougSync.

Keynote speaker on mental illness: Hakeem Rahim

Thursday, Nov. 3, 6:30-7:30 pm, Todd 116

Come listen to Hakeem Rahim, a professional speaker on mental health awareness, depression and suicide prevention. Hakeem will talk about his personal journey with mental illness as well as strategies to support, educate, and empower students to end mental health stigma. Make sure to check out #IAMACCEPTANCE on social media.

Movember at University Recreation

Join University Recreation for Movember, a month-long campaign focused on men’s health. UREC is hosting a full schedule of events, and all are welcome to participate!

Happy, healthy success for students

Happy, healthy success for students

When I came to WSU as an undergraduate student in 1997, I was not healthy. I didn’t have any type of obvious physical dysfunction. I just wasn’t thriving emotionally or physically.

How do you define health? I think happiness is health. Accepting who you are and what you can do is health. Finding your path and enjoying the journey – yes, I think that’s health too.

During my time at WSU, I’ve been an undergraduate student, graduate student and now an employee with a mission to support students. I’ve had a lot of time to consider what would have helped me to be healthy, to thrive, as a new student.

Here’s what I wish I would have known:

  • Do what’s important to you. People everywhere will be telling you what you should do and the best way to do it. (Like me right now!) But only you know what your goals are, and you’re the one who ultimately has to determine the best way for you to get there.
  • Know your support system. At Health and Wellness Services, we have programs and services to help support your mental, emotional and physical health. And across campus, there are so many people and offices specifically in place to help you with any challenge that may come your way.
  • Ask for help when you need it, even for the little things. And if the person you ask can’t or won’t help, keep asking until you find someone who will. I guarantee that whatever challenge you’re facing, there’s someone (usually more than one someone) on this campus who can and will help you.

Like me, you’ll get a lot of advice while you’re here at WSU. And maybe, like me, you’ll end up with a list of “I wish I would have knowns.” In the end, you’ll sort through it all and figure out what works best for you. And if you need help along the way, we’re here for you.

Paula Adams holds the position of associate director of health promotion at Health & Wellness Services and is a bit compulsive about effectiveness and efficiency. She is working toward a doctoral degree in prevention science.