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March Peer Health Educator of the Month – Nives Quaye

Photo of CHS Peer Health Educator Nives Quaye
Photo of CHS Peer Health Educator Nives Quaye
CHS Peer Health Educator Nives Quaye

Nives Quaye is a fifth year senior at WSU completing a B.A. in human development and a B.S. in biology, with an emphasis in basic medical sciences. She joined the peer health education program in the fall of 2018. Her peers in the program nominated her for the March Peer Health Educator of the Month award. The award is given to peer health educators in recognition of their hard work and dedication to the program. We sat down with Nives to hear more about her time in the program and why she thinks other students would benefit from joining.

How has being a peer health educator been meaningful to you?

NQ: Well I actually want to go into Public Health, and health education is one of the things I want to do in the Public Health realm. I want to do programming and health education, so I feel that these tie in perfectly with what my future goals are. I feel it has given me more knowledge about health education in general and how to present to people about sensitive topics.

How do you think being a peer health educator has built career skills?

NQ: It’s definitely given me some experience in public speaking and how to interact in a large group setting. I also went to some workshops with Tamera Crooks, [the leadership coordinator for student involvement], where I learned about how different personalities can be integrated in the workspace and about being able to collaborate better with partners and in group settings.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a peer health educator?

NQ: I would say learning how to use more inclusive language when speaking to people was really emphasized in this position. For example, learning how to say pronouns when introducing yourself in a group of people. In my other positions I’ve been in [on campus], we never really went as in depth as in this program.

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a peer health educator?

NQ: I would say, if you are passionate about educating other college students about just regular things that affect them on a daily basis, then apply for this position. If you see yourself as always being a friend that’s being asked about certain things or you like being asked for advice and you feel these things come naturally to you, I would definitely say this would be a good position. [As a peer health educator], you would be able to tell others about different resources they can use to help themselves and have an impact on a large amount of people.

Mental health and young adults

The transition to college is a time filled with excitement and new possibilities. But this season of life can also be challenging and stressful as you adjust to college and the changes in your life. Stress can develop from academic pressure, relationship changes, lack of sleep, and becoming more independent.

Stress is a normal part of life, but it can affect your mental health and impact not only school, but day to day living. In spring, we collected National College Health Assessment data at WSU Pullman and found in the last year, 86 percent of WSU students felt overwhelmed. Another 64 percent of Cougs expressed they felt very lonely.

Our mental health is how we manage our emotions and cope with stress. Just as we take care of our physical health, we can also care for our mental health. We can all work together to build a supportive campus community.

Cougs can take action to cope when feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or lonely. You can:

  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Participate in activities you enjoy doing
  • Eat a healthy meal
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take breaks from studying to rest and recharge
  • Get a good night of sleep

Every Coug should also be familiar with campus mental health resources. Cougar Health Services provides a free and confidential online mental health screening, which provides recommendations on campus resources to support your mental wellness.

We offer Mental Health First Aid and Campus Connect trainings, where participants learn how to identify mental illnesses, intervene during a crisis, and support themselves and others. WSU also have guides for helping students in distress.

WSU is following the JED approach to develop campus-wide collaboration for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

To receive updates on WSU’s mental health efforts, subscribe to Cougar Health Services News.

Protect yourself from wildfire smoke

WSU community members should take precautions to reduce exposure to unhealthy, smoky air.

Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects. Older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke.

If you experience any signs of respiratory distress, contact your health care provider or call Health & Wellness Services at 509-335-3575.

There are many steps you can take for limiting exposure to unhealthy, smoky air.

Avoid being outdoors. Use public transportation rather than walking or biking.

Stay inside as much as possible. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows, and if possible use an air filter and air conditioning. Make sure your air conditioner’s fresh-air intake is closed and the filter is clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.

Do not add to indoor pollution. Avoid using candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

Follow your health care provider’s guidance. If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and your respiratory management plan.

Wear a mask. Masks can help limit exposure to unhealthy, smoky air. Students can get a free basic mask from the clinic’s waiting and lobby area. The CDC advises against relying solely on basic masks for protection.

Students can purchase N95 masks at the Health & Wellness Services’ pharmacy for $1.50. These masks offer more protection than basic masks.

WSU Environmental Health & Safety has additional resources on wildfire smoke including a real time map.

We’re adding more mental health training options

We’re expanding training opportunities for mental health and suicide prevention. By adding more facilitators and online trainings, we’ll be able to educate more Cougs!

We now have two Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) facilitators. Our MHFA classes are always full and we often have to put people on a waiting list. With two facilitators on staff, we’ll be able to train more Cougs how to recognize and assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

We’re working with Global Campus to make mental health-related webinars, like mindfulness and self-care, available online. And coming soon, our suicide prevention training, Campus Connect, will also be available online.

Providing online trainings allows us to reach more people, and establishes a reliable web-based mental health reference Cougs can refer back to.

Additionally, this fall we’re implementing a Campus Connect refresher course to ensure previous participants are up-to-date on best practices in suicide prevention. All returning resident advisors will participate in the refresher course, and new resident advisors will take Campus Connect training for the first time.

When we meet with returning resident advisors, we’ll discuss how they’ve used information from Campus Connect in the past year. We’ll talk about any struggles they experienced with implementing the material, and how we can improve our program in the future.

By utilizing different formats to deliver trainings, and increasing the number of trainings we offer, we’ll be able to train more Cougs, both online, and at the Pullman campus.

Viewing guide for “13 Reasons Why”

Viewing guide for “13 Reasons Why”

The new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, a fictional story about a high school student who dies by suicide, has sparked many conversations about suicide and mental health. Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about this show during suicide prevention and mental health trainings.

We’re really glad to hear community members talking about suicide and mental health. Talking about these topics in a caring and non-judgmental way helps create a culture that encourages getting help when you need it.

Like any dramatized account of mental health issues, it’s important to watch the show with a critical eye. If you’re thinking about watching, or have already watched, “13 Reasons Why”, here are some things to keep in mind.

Make a thoughtful decision whether or not watch the show. You may not want to watch if you’re experiencing, or have previously experienced, significant depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Consider watching the show with others. Discuss what you’re seeing and experiencing along the way.

Be mindful of how the show is affecting you. Stop watching if you find yourself feeling distraught or depressed, having thoughts of suicide, or having trouble sleeping. If this happens, talk about it with someone you trust.

Think about how you might make different choices than the characters. For example, it might be helpful to think through when and how someone could have intervened to help the main character. 

Suicide affects everyone. If you see or hear warning signs that someone is at risk of suicide, it’s critical to get help right away.

If you’re concerned about someone, talk with them openly and honestly. Asking someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts will not make them more suicidal or put the idea of suicide in their mind.

Counselors are professionals and a trustworthy source for help. If your experience with a counselor or therapist is unhelpful, look for another professional to talk to or seek out other sources of support, such as a crisis line.

Suicide is never the fault of survivors. There are resources and support groups to help survivors of suicide loss.

Care for yourself, your friends, and your family members. If you or someone you know is struggling mentally or emotionally, please get help. Getting support from loved ones and mental health care professionals can save lives.

We based these recommendations on guidance from the Jed Foundation.

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.

Take action to prevent violence

group of students

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and WSU students are ready to take action to prevent violence!

According to 2016 climate assessment data, 67 percent of WSU students feel confident in their ability to take action to reduce interpersonal violence. When asked why they would take action, 78 percent said they feel it’s their responsibility to make people in their community safer.

We’re clearly committed to helping one another! But it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to taking concrete action. What can we do to help? How can we make a real difference?

At Health & Wellness Services, we believe that every single one of us can help make our community safer. One person can’t do everything, but we can all do something. Here are some simple ways you can get involved in addressing violence in our community this month (and throughout the rest of the year!)

  1. Read our blog post about how you can support survivors of sexual assault.
  2. Make sure you know WSU’s Executive Policy #15 prohibiting discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct.
  3. Get familiar with the confidential and university resources
  4. Request a resource poster or print a message of support to hang in your hall, classroom, or Greek residence.
  5. Add Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse’s 24- hour emergency and support service phone number for survivors of family and sexual violence to your contacts: 1-877-334-2887.
  6. Visit the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs for tools and materials you can personalize and use for social media and events. Materials are available in four different languages!
  7. Check out #SAAM on your social media of choice to find info and resources you can share with friends and family.
  8. Follow Coug Health and Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse on Facebook for more info on violence prevention efforts in our community.
  9. Attend a Green Dot bystander training and learn how to safely intervene in a potentially dangerous situation and prevent violence from happening.
  10. Sign up for updates on violence prevention and other health news and resources.

These are just a few ways each of us can take action, and get connected to helpful resources in our community. If we work together, we can put an end to violence and make our campus a safer place.

This post, originally published in April 2016, has been updated with new resources and information.

Cougs support survivors of violence

two students talking

Here at WSU, Cougs help Cougs. Our community cares deeply about supporting and encouraging one another in all areas of our lives. This way of thinking is especially important when it comes to supporting survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. How we respond to survivors can have a huge impact on how they feel about their experience and what actions they take as they heal.

When someone tells you about their experience, it can be incredibly tough to know what to say and do. If you find yourself in that situation, remember what matters most: listen, believe, and support.

Listen. The most important thing you can do is listen without judgment. Even asking too many detailed questions can feel critical. Let the survivor tell their story at their own pace, with the details they feel comfortable providing. For some survivors, sharing their story is an important part of healing. Listening non-judgmentally and offering empathy will help them to feel safe and cared for.

Believe. People rarely make up stories of violence. Believe the survivor. If they say they were hurt, then they were. Assure your friend that it’s not their fault, no matter what happened, and that you believe and want to support them.

Support. Survivors can experience a range of emotions that are all normal. Encourage your friend to access support services, but let them decide if and when they want to use the resources you offer. You can find a comprehensive list of confidential and university resources from the Office of Equal Opportunity. If you’re able to and feel comfortable, you can offer to go with them. Everyone responds differently, and survivors’ needs may change over time. Check in with your friend occasionally and offer support again.

These conversations can be incredibly difficult and emotional. After talking with a friend about their experience with violence, you may want to consider seeking resources or support for yourself as well.

Supporting survivors is just one way Cougs take action against sexual assault and interpersonal violence in our community. Check out this list of simple steps you can take to help prevent violence and make our campus a safer place.

Do you want more information on how to make our campus safer? Sign up to receive news and resources for preventing violence in our community.

This post, originally published in April 2016, has been updated with new resources and information.

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.

Identifying abusive relationships

Identifying abusive relationships

We’re often in a good position to spot abusive behaviors in our friends’ relationships. But some of the signs of unhealthy relationships can look a lot like normal couple interactions. How can you tell the difference?

It can be hard to know for sure whether someone else is in a healthy relationship, but having a foundational understanding of abusive behaviors will help you notice potential warning signs and take action to help your friend if they need it.

First, let’s look at some examples of what normal couples experience.

Jealousy. It’s totally normal to feel a little upset it we see someone else flirting with our partner.

Conflict. It’s true – every relationship has conflict. We all have different perspectives and life experiences, and sometimes we clash.

Spending less time with friends. This is especially common early on in a relationship when you want to spend every waking minute together.

While these are often normal behaviors in a relationship, at what point might they be signs of abuse? Take a closer look. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do those feelings of jealousy pass after both people talk about how they’re feeling? Or do they lead one person to act possessive and controlling over their partner?
  • When conflict arises, do both people have an equal say, and do they both feel comfortable expressing how they truly feel? Or does one person hold back their feelings for fear of upsetting their partner?
  • Do both partners seem happy when they see each other? Do they both light up when they get millions of texts from their partner, or do they get frustrated, or even scared, when they get these messages?
  • Are partners spending all of their time together because they both want to? Or because one person demands it of the other?

Close friends are often in the best position to spot abusive behaviors in someone else’s relationship. The key is to pay attention and if you see or hear something that makes you uncomfortable – it’s time to check in. Start by just asking your friend, “How are things going in your relationship?”

Try and put yourself in your friend’s position. You would probably want someone to step in, offer support, and help you identify potential resources and options. You can be that person for your friend.