The Gustavian Weekly

Build your mental health toolbox: October is World Mental Health Awareness Month - The Gustavian Weekly

By Michaela Woodward - Staff Writer | October 16, 2020 | Variety

October brings changing leaves, pumpkin spice everything and the opportunity to focus on mental health. During October, World Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness week (Oct. 4 – 10), everyone is challenged to prioritize and learn more about taking care of their mental health. It is also an opportunity to foster healthy conversations surrounding mental wellbeing.
Warning signs are important to recognize and be aware of.
“It’s really important for people to know that they’re not alone and that it’s normal to have fluctuations in emotions. But if emotions are consistently negative or if there’s a consistent feeling of hopelessness or depression, if anxiety is always high, if anxiety is interfering with daily activities, those are all reasons to seek additional assessment and help from a professional,” Dale said.
The variety of resources Gustavus offers make building a mental health “toolbox” accessible for all students, no matter their concerns or needs.
“Living with that can be really, really challenging. There’s a whole continuum of what can be helpful in those situations and it’s not one size fits all. It’s having a variety of tools that individuals can use at various times in their life to meet the needs that they’re having in that moment,” Dale said.
One resource is the Peer Assistants (PAs), a group of students who work in the GustieWELL office and provide support and education about healthy living on campus. In the past they have annually hosted Walktober and De-Stress Fest, but due to social distancing procedures this year, the Mental Health Committee has adapted to the circumstances.
“This year for Mental Health Awareness Week specifically, our Mental Health Committee put on a program titled ‘It’s the Little Things.’ Each night, we hosted a live Zoom video and led stress-relieving activities including origami, baking, bracelet making and yoga. Through these events, we hoped to show students how even little 10-15 minute activities a day can help manage stress and improve overall mood, as well as provide a sense of community to those who participated,” Junior PA Shae Archambault said.
As a member of the Mental Health Committee, Archambault hopes that this initiative will help normalize discussing mental illness.
“The PAs have always made mental health a major priority within our organization, specifically focusing on stress management and reduction, reducing the stigma around mental health and providing our students with an array of resources. So many of our peers face the same challenges and stressors of college and life in general. By reducing the stigma around mental health and the challenges it brings, I think we can build an overall more supportive community for students,” Archambault said.
Archambault also notes that it is important this year in particular to be mindful about mental health concerns.
“I believe that the biggest mental health concerns this year are related to feelings of isolation, anxiety/trauma over the current political/social state of the country and learning how to cope with things outside of our control. This year has presented a multitude of challenges for students to face and deal with on top of the typical stressors of daily life,” Archambault said.
This year has also presented challenges for the PAs and has required them to adapt their programs to work in this environment.
“Our goal of being an accessible and educational resource for students remains the same, so figuring out programming that allows us to achieve this purpose is our primary focus. We have been putting on social media campaigns regarding each of our core topics (mental/physical/chemical health, healthy relationships) in order to make the information available to all students, both on- and off-campus,” Archambault said.
“While in-person events are still more limited, we are always coming up with new ideas for our programming. Some of our resources for students include one-on-one meetings with a PA, both in-person and virtually, Learn to Live (an online program designed to help students manage their mental health), and help connecting students to other campus resources including the Counseling Center, Chaplain’s Office, Dean of Students, and so on,” Archambault said.
These resources and others are available year-round. Talking with a Peer Assistant about what path is right for an individual student is a great way to begin to take action to prioritize mental health.

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