SCS addresses student mental health

Mental illness is a rising problem among teens and adults. One in three college students admit to needing professional help due to a mental health issue, according to Health.com. The University of North Alabama is helping its students maintain their mental health with the Student Counseling Services. 

Centrally located in the first floor of Rice Hall, the Student Counseling Services is a place where students can go to speak with licensed professionals about anything they are struggling with.  

“[Last year] 4,000 appointments were made,” said Carmen Richter, the clinical manager of the Student Counseling Services (SCS). “I think it’s less stigmatized [to get help] in your age group.”  

Compared to physical illness or injury,  mental health issues are not as visible, so reaching out may be harder for some students. UNA is creating new opportunities for these (and all) students to reach out and receive help. One of the new additions is what is called the Zen Den. This is a small space in the counseling center for students to have a safe place to calm down and focus. The SCS also offers group therapy. 

“We have different topics….Based on surveys that go out to students, [determining] what is most troubling” Richter said. “It changes each semester based on what students need.” 

They also have educational workshops and events where SCS is out on campus. Some other things SCS offers are individual assessments, crisis intervention, individual and group counseling, community referrals and individual consultations.

“They are so nice there––it’s a very open environment. It helped me through my transitional year” said Avery, a student that to not have her last name published who sought guidance from SCS with an eating disorder. “It [the Student Counseling Services] was the first place I received help from those specialized in eating disorders,” said another student who asked to remain anonymous. “I was also able to become a part of a support group with other students struggling, which made me feel less alone.” 

SCS also provides many opportunities for students to get involved in around campus through various group meetings. One new focus group is called The Body Project. This a program designed to help female students struggling with body image, unhealthy eating habits and full blown eating disorders. 

“[It’s] helping women to define body acceptance and body positivity of all shapes and sizes” said Jennifer Berry, a counselor at the SCS.

UNA is joining campuses across the nation with this group to help women learn to accept themselves. This project coincided with Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which was the last week of February. Along with The Body Project is a similar event called Feel Good Naked Week. Berry said this event is open to  anyone.

“You don’t have to have an eating disorder to be concerned about your body image”  Berry said.

 UNA wanted to find a way to these the various issues students face that may lead to mental heath issues. SCS will spend a few days in the GUC giving out general information about how to accept others and yourself. 

Another way to get involved is with the “green bandanna” project. This is something students are doing for suicide prevention awareness and to help others find mental health resources. 

“Students who take the pledge tie a green bandanna around their backpack… [so others] can visually see, ‘that’s a person that I can go to for resources,’” Richter said.

Whether through individual counseling, support groups or getting involved in one of its programs, Student Counseling Services is focused on provided UNA students with all possible support services