The Daily Gamecock

Maintain mental health by acknowledgment, rest, check-ins, Student Health Services says

<p>A picture of the Center for Health and Well-Being on June 14, 2022. The building houses University Health Services and supports students' medical needs.&nbsp;</p>
A picture of the Center for Health and Well-Being on June 14, 2022. The building houses University Health Services and supports students' medical needs. 

After a summer of tragedies, staff members at Student Health Services suggest students acknowledge their emotions, take a break from media coverage and notice how their support team is feeling in order to maintain mental health and well-being for themselves and others. 

Mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, not only sparked a number of rallies in Columbia, but also brought on a new wave of emotions for students. 

Nancy Padsala, a December 2021 graduate of USC, said she felt upset when she heard about the death of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. 

“It was really painful to see all those kids getting shot and really, really disappointing,” Padsala said. 

Jennifer Cross, a licensed professional counselor at the Health Services center, said that although everyone processes tragic events differently, this type of reaction is common among the students she sees. 

“A lot of times people are just feeling really sad. They're feeling really overwhelmed,” Cross said. “And I think another common experience is feeling a sense of helplessness. Like there's not really anything that they can do about what's going on” 

Cross said that the first step in confronting these emotions is to “acknowledge something bad happened.” 

“It's okay to recognize that you're having a response to it, whatever that response may be,” Cross said. 

These responses can vary greatly based on a student's culture and perspective, Sterling Watson, the assistant director of training at the Health Services center, said. Even students who don’t seem distressed could be significantly impacted. 

“By not investing emotionally in what it is that they're witnessing ... so that they can continue to do what it is that they need to do with regards to school, education, socializing," Watson said. "I will say that it does impact them." 

The next way for students to reduce risks of mental stress is taking time away from coverage of traumatic events, Cross said. She said that a 24/7 stream of information can be difficult for people of any age. 

“There's so much happening at any point in time, it's hard to keep up with it all. And so we do have to take very intentional breaks from the content that we're ingesting, as part of just restoring some degree of balance as best as we can,” Cross said. 

It is also important that students keep in mind that there are still positives in the world and actions they do have control over, Cross said. 

"There are still good things that happen and good people out there," Cross said. 

To protect everyone's mental health, it is also important to be checking in on the friends and family members you go to for support as stressful news can be impactful for everyone, Cross said. 

"These times, we do have to be very considerate about everybody else's well-being and not wanting to add any additional stressors while also getting our needs met through our support system,” Cross said. 

Health Services also provides resources for students who may be struggling to get the support they need. For students not enrolled during the summer or who live out of state during the break, Cross suggests they utilize their Therapy Assistance Online program which provides online modules that teach coping skills and mental health care.

Meanwhile, summer students have access to group counseling as well as triage counseling where they can meet with a counselor quickly for immediate concerns. Watson said it is especially important that students have an outlet to talk through their emotions. 

“It becomes really important for us to reach out to somebody, to talk to somebody, talk to a professional, to really begin to process the magnitude of emotions that persons might be experiencing,” Watson said. “Do something to kind of let go of some of that.”