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Health & Wellness Services Division of Student Affairs

Student story: Advocating for mental health

Student story: Advocating for mental health on campus

Written by James Whitbread

Washington State University is a special place for many reasons. The community atmosphere here pulls and keeps people together, while we are still in school and after we graduate. This university presents its students with multitudes of professional development, humanitarian, volunteer, social justice, and many other opportunities. Being from WSU fills me with a sense of pride, and Health & Wellness Services (HWS) contributes greatly to this.

For two years, I have been a mental health awareness advocate, working tirelessly to improve our campus community and make it one that is accepting and understanding of mental illness and mental health difficulties. This would not have been possible without HWS. Victoria Braun, a health promotion specialist and suicide prevention coordinator that works there, has been invaluable to this goal.

Two years ago, when I approached Victoria with an idea to start a registered student organization for mental health awareness, she immediately jumped on board. Through the development of our current organization, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) WSU, Victoria has been an adviser and friend who has helped in innumerable ways. We have organized everything from simple tabling events all the way to a mental health awareness week in collaboration with HWS and ASWSU. Our crowning achievement so far has been a spoken word event entitled “Hope”, during which a dozen performers of everything from music to spoken word shared their experiences with mental health difficulties in the context of hope for the future. It was a highly-attended event, and audience feedback indicated it was a meaningful experience.

Victoria’s impact on the community has been great, but so has her impact on me. Oftentimes, I find myself thinking of things through the way she would. I wonder about what she would think or say, how she would respond to the situation. Her instruction and teachings will stay with me, and her expertise and ability to impart knowledge so easily show how high-caliber and useful HWS is because of the people it employs.

I am passionate about mental health advocacy for a myriad of reasons, but one of the most significant being that it is a profound need on college campuses around the nation. My hope is to destigmatize mental health difficulties, and to get students to start the conversation concerning mental health. It is only by achieving this that we can create a compassionate and understanding community, and HWS has been integral to the progress we have made.

Even outside the realm of mental health advocacy, the health promotion team at HWS works tirelessly to keep students healthy in every way. Being a holistic wellness facilitator for HWS, I have witnessed this first-hand and been able to contribute. Taylor Schwab and his team have created pertinent and meaningful workshops, presentations, and events to promote healthy lifestyles for the benefit of the students at WSU. Participating in these and working with HWS as a facilitator has given me an appreciation for preventative medicine.

The work of people like Taylor and Victoria is incredibly important to the overall health of the WSU community, and being able to work with them has taught me the importance of health promotion, constant learning, professional development, and many more aspects of health that has prepared me for my own future. As a pre-med student hoping to become a physician, the experiences I have had with HWS have been learning opportunities I will not soon forget.

James Whitbread is a senior at WSU completing a B.S. in theoretical mathematics, having completed minors in sociology, chemistry, molecular biosciences, and biology. Throughout his time at WSU, he has worked as a student leader in mental health advocacy and health promotion, and hopes to be admitted to medical school this year to practice a holistic approach to medicine as an M.D.

5 ways to respond to offensive comments

By Nikki Finnestead and Amber Morczek

We’ve all been in situations where we overheard an offensive joke or hurtful comment and wondered how to respond. We often have to overcome personal barriers to taking action, just like we do in other situations that make us uncomfortable or concerned.

When it comes to hurtful language in particular, you might worry that the person didn’t mean to be offensive, that you won’t change anyone’s mind, or that you don’t know enough about the topic to challenge their view.

If you’re confronted with comments that make you feel uncomfortable and you want to speak up, you have many options for how to respond.

  1. Be direct. Speaking up doesn’t always mean taking a dramatic stand. Even something simple like, “Hey, that’s not funny,” or, “That’s not cool,” can have a big impact.
  2. Change the subject. Casually redirecting the conversation can stop offensive language in its tracks. “Hey, I totally bombed that midterm. What about you?” Or, “What are you doing over the holiday break?”
  3. Talk about it later. Even if you freeze in the moment, it’s never too late to make your feelings known. Talk to the person who made the harmful comment the next day, after you’ve had time to reflect on the situation and your response. You can even text them if you feel uncomfortable speaking up in person. There’s no harm in waiting to speak up!
  4. Ask someone else for help. Speak to a faculty member if another student in class said something offensive. Ask a friend for advice on what they would do in the situation.
  5. Take indirect action. If you’re uncomfortable confronting others in response to a specific comment, you can still let people know where you stand. You can post a video on Facebook about an issue you’re passionate about or retweet articles on topics that are important to you. Working to educate yourself and those around you can be more influential than you realize.

Remember: Chances are if you feel uncomfortable, someone else does too. It often takes just one person to step in to give other people permission to do the same.

Show your support for suicide prevention

12 ways to participate in National Suicide Prevention Week

National Suicide Prevention Week is happening September 10 – 16, 2017 and there are numerous ways you can show your support!

At WSU, we want to create a supportive community that encourages people to get help when they experience a mental health concern or thoughts of suicide. Mental health issues are a normal, common experience. It’s okay to ask for help and there are resources on campus to support you and your friends.

Join your fellow Cougs and others around the nation to work towards the common goal of preventing suicide. Here are some ways you can promote mental health and prevent suicide any day of the week.

  1. Add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to your phone and follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
  2. Learn about how you can support a friend who is struggling with a mental health concern.
  3. Do something positive for your mental health. You might try some creative self-care or enjoy some exercise, the outdoors, time with friends, or a healthy meal.
  4. Join WSU’s chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). TWLOHA is a nation-wide nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.
  5. Find out what the warning signs for suicide are, and what to do if you’re concerned about someone in your life.
  6. Sign up for suicide prevention training Campus Connect or take this training online.
  7. Fight the stress of school with some extra self-compassion.
  8. Sign up to get personalized stress management tips by texting “STRESS” to 30644.
  9. Subscribe to our email list to get more information about mental health and suicide prevention at WSU.
  10. Try meditating today. Mindfulness meditation can help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, while increasing happiness and quality of life.
  11. Participate in the University of Idaho’s, “We got your back” suicide awareness 5K.
  12. If there’s someone you’re concerned about, take a minute to check in with them and ask how they’re doing – it could change their life.

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.

Get your flu vaccine!

Get your flu vaccine

Flu season is approaching fast! You can prevent the flu by getting your flu vaccine at one of our Flu Shot Friday events or by visiting our medical clinic.

It’s important that you get your flu shot early in the season. After getting a flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies that will protect you from flu virus.

Flu Shot Fridays

Every Friday from September 29 to October 27
10 am to 3 pm
Washington Building, ground floor entrance

Unable to make it to a Flu Shot Friday or want your shot sooner? Students can visit our medical clinic to get their flu shot, no appointment necessary.

WSU students, faculty, and staff, as well as local community members, can get their flu shots at Flu Shot Fridays. We won’t be able to give the vaccine to those who are pregnant or under age 18.

Cost

Flu shots are covered in full by most insurance plans. If you don’t have insurance or are concerned about costs, we’re here to help you! Contact our billing office at 509-335-3575.

Make sure to bring your insurance card! We won’t be taking payment at the time of the services for Flu Shot Fridays, but we’ll take down your insurance information for billing.

Parking options

We’ll have some parking spaces reserved in the green lot at Stadium Way and SE Nevada St. for Flu Shot Fridays. Reserved spaces will be marked with orange cones. Metered parking spots are available on NE Washington St.

There are also a number of zoned parking lots available nearby for permit holders. For a detailed parking map, visit Transportation Services. Our building is also easily accessible via public transit. Visit Pullman Transit for routes and schedules.

Map of Health and Wellness Services building

Vaccine type

There are two types of flu shot: intradermal and intramuscular. Intradermal shots are given by injecting a small amount of concentrated flu vaccine in the top layers of the skin. The needle used for intradermal shots is smaller than a traditional shot, which makes this type a great choice if you have a fear of needles.

Intramuscular shots are given by injecting vaccine into the muscle. At Flu Shot Fridays, we typically give intradermal injections, but you can ask for an intramuscular injection if you’d prefer one.

Exercise and your brain

Exercise and your brain

Many of us know exercise is good for our physical health, but did you know it can also improve your brain and help you perform better in school?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. If that seems like too much, don’t sweat it! Even exercise as simple as walking can benefit the brain.

Here are some of the ways exercise helps your brain stay in shape.

Memory. Do you have a big test you’re preparing for? Try exercising a few hours after studying. Research shows exercising after you study can improve your ability to retain information.

In the long-term, regular exercise increases the volume of your prefrontal cortex, which is the area in the brain that deals with memory and thinking. Researchers have also found exercise can help lower risk of dementia, a condition related to memory loss.

Mental health. Studies show exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Specifically, one study found that aerobic exercise, like jogging, helped patients cope with depression.

If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of depression or another mental health condition, make sure to talk to a health professional. Counseling and Psychological Services has walk-in hours or you can meet with your Health & Wellness Services provider.

Overall wellness. Regular exercise can help you sleep better, increase your energy level, and offer mental health benefits. Exercise helps you feel better all around – not just physically.

Do you need help finding fun ways to recreate or do you want to improve your overall fitness? Check out what University Recreation and the Outdoor Recreation Center have to offer.

If you’re struggling to find time to exercise, be sure to check our previous post about fitting fitness into your schedule.

Get stress management tips

Get stress management tips

Feeling stressed, need help coping, or just want tips for managing your stress? We can help!

Join our text messaging program and we will:

  • Check in with you every week to see how you’re doing
  • Send you weekly tips for lowering stress
  • Enter you to win a prizes like a fitness class pass, UREC coupon code, and more
  • Share information about health-related events and resources around campus

To sign up, text “STRESS” to 30644. You can join at any point in the semester!

You can also check out our stress management workshops and other programs.

All RAs take suicide prevention training

All RAs take suicide prevention training

Last week, we trained all 167 resident advisors (RAs) in suicide prevention through our Campus Connect program.

Campus Connect is the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) best practice program  we chose for educating Cougs about suicide and how to respond to someone in crisis.

Campus Connect participants learn about the warning signs for suicide, how to refer someone to appropriate care resources, communication and relationship building skills, and how to ask someone if they’re having thoughts of suicide.

Returning RAs who’ve previously attended Campus Connect took a refresher course to ensure they’re up-to-date on best practices in suicide prevention. These students also shared about their experience with implementing what they learned in the previous year and how we can improve our program in the future.

90 percent of new freshmen live on campus, and RAs play a key role in helping new students transition to college life. While there are many challenges new students encounter, some may struggle with thoughts of suicide.

When all RAs take suicide prevention training, we’re able to help connect students who need help to the appropriate care resources.

We’re extremely proud of all our RAs and the broader WSU community’s commitment to suicide prevention and mental health promotion. Since its implementation last year, over 460 WSU staff and students have taken Campus Connect.

Are you interested in helping a student in crisis? Sign up for Campus Connect or Mental Health First Aid.

How to identify warning signs for suicide

How to identify warning signs for suicide

Knowing the warning signs for suicide can help you notice if someone you care about is at risk for suicide. When you’re familiar with these signs, you’ll know when to be concerned and you’ll feel more confident in your ability to help someone who’s struggling.

Warning signs for suicide are not black and white. Everyone is a little different and it’s possible for someone to experience some or all of the typical warning signs.

The key to noticing warning signs for suicide is to look for changes in a person’s mood or regular behavior. These changes are often most apparent to close friends and family members.

Warning signs for suicide

  • Hopelessness
  • Intense or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking or without caring about consequences
  • Feeling trapped or like there’s no way out
  • Verbal hints such as, “I won’t be around much longer.”
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood or personality changes
  • Expressing no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life
  • Giving away things that are meaningful, putting affairs in order
  • Seeking access to potentially lethal means (guns, knives, pills, high windows, etc.)
  • Becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • Talking about death and suicide

These warning signs are provided by The Jed Foundation.

If you think someone you care about is showing warning signs for suicide, ask them, “How are you doing?” and “Are you experiencing thoughts of suicide?”

Asking someone if they’re struggling with thoughts of suicide won’t put them at risk. And most importantly – it creates an opportunity to offer support and share resources.

Try to not let the fear of a “yes” answer prevent you from asking someone about thoughts of suicide. If this happens, be sure to get appropriate professional help. Counseling and Psychological Services or the National Suicide Lifeline can provide support or if it’s an emergency, you can call 911.

It’s okay for you to feel uncertain about what to say or do when someone expresses that they’re having thoughts of suicide. But the best thing you can do is to get help right away, and stay with them until appropriate care resources are present.

If someone answers “no,” but you’re unsure about their response, try to offer support resources like Counseling and Psychological Services. You can also try reframing your question or check in with that person later.

If you want more information about how to help someone who’s struggling with suicide, please sign up for our suicide prevention training, Campus Connect.

Services covered by health fee


Your student health fee enables Health & Wellness Services and Counseling and Psychological Services to offer a comprehensive suite of services in one convenient on-campus location.

Your fall 2017 health fee eligibility starts today! If you’re enrolled for the fall semester, you can begin accessing our services and programs.

Students who pay the health fee receive access to a wide range of health services at no additional cost, including:

  • One medical clinic office visit per semester, which covers the face-to-face time spent with a health care provider only. This excludes comprehensive physicals, specialty visits to Behavioral Health or the vision clinic, procedures, immunizations, and travel clinic.
  • 24/7 medical advice from our nursing staff over our telephone nurse line at 509-335-3575
  • Same-day mental health services at Behavioral Health (on referral from your health care provider)
  • Referral coordinator to help you find community providers for specialty services
  • Certified health insurance navigators to help students without insurance understand their options through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange
  • Nutrition counseling with our registered dietitian
  • Tobacco cessation counseling and nicotine replacements through Behavioral Health
  • Health screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, stress, cancer screening skills and more
  • Educational programs covering a range of topics including stress management, mental health, life skills, substance use, and violence prevention
  • 24-hour crisis line operated by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
  • Unlimited group counseling and workshops as well as brief, focused individual therapy and other psychological services provided at CAPS

Charges for additional services will be billed to your insurance. Don’t have insurance? Call us and get help from our certified health insurance navigators. We also offer a financial assistance program for students who need help paying for medical services at our clinic.

For details on costs for services and insurance companies we’re contracted with, visit our billing page. As always, don’t hesitate to call our billing staff at 509-335-3575 with any questions about costs and insurance!