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Health & Wellness Services Division of Student Affairs

How to overcome the bystander effect

How to overcome the bystander effect

While most of us are sympathetic toward helping someone, the bystander effect can prevent us from stepping in. The bystander effect is when a group of people sees a problem or someone in need, but no one does anything to help.

Why don’t we help? One reason why people choose not to help is because they observe and follow what other people are doing. So if everyone is passing by and not paying attention, we conclude that what’s happening isn’t a big deal. After all, no one else looks concerned.

You’ve probably experienced a similar phenomenon in class. The professor asks if there are any questions, and since everyone else looks like they understand, you decide to not ask your question. When we follow social queues from others it becomes easy to make assumptions that are not true.

So what can you do? Next time you see someone who needs help, pay attention to your reaction. You might be tempted to ignore what’s happening because no one else is doing anything. Instead, stop and ask the person who appears to need help if they’re okay.

Another reason why people don’t help is because of the diffusion of responsibility. This is when you assume another person will step in or someone more qualified will help. And when there are more people present, like at a party, the less likely it is someone else will help.

If you notice something like possible symptoms of alcohol poisoning, a couple fighting, or something else that just doesn’t feel right, don’t wait for someone else to step in – take action immediately.

What can you do? Recruit a specific person and ask for their help. Then give that person a specific job like calling 911 or turning down the music.

Overcoming the bystander effect can be difficult, but the solution is to recognize these instinctive responses and decide to help anyway.

If you want to feel more confident in your ability to respond to someone who needs help, sign up for alcohol safety or bystander intervention training.

Violence prevention for graduate students

Violence prevention for graduate students

As a graduate student, you can take an active role to stop violence from happening on our campus. By knowing what your barriers are and what you can do about them, you’ll be ready to make WSU a safer place to live, work, and learn.

Violence prevention for a graduate student will probably be different than it would for an undergraduate. Conversations about violence sometimes focus on social settings like parties where people are drinking, but maybe you’ve seen someone in a professional or academic setting do something hurtful. This could be a faculty member, fellow graduate student, or one of your students.

Gender-based violence and other harmful behavior like harassment and discrimination can come in many different forms and can happen regardless of education or position.

We all experience barriers to taking action when we see something that concerns us. As a graduate or professional student you might’ve felt:

  • Scared of professional retaliation
  • Hesitant because it’s not your business
  • Worried about what others in your department will think if you spoke up
  • Uncertain about who you can talk to
  • Concerned about power dynamics in a relationship (for example, committee chair and student, supervising faculty member and TA or RA, lab partner and you)

So how can you work around these barriers? The answer is to direct, delegate, or distract.

Direct. Do something yourself. If you’re concerned about someone, ask them directly how they’re doing and if you can help. If a lab mate or a student appear to be struggling, ask questions like, “Hey, is everything going okay?” or, “Do you need anything?”

Delegate. Ask someone else for help. Sometimes you aren’t the best person to intervene in a given situation. Asking someone else for help is always an option. Talk with your department chair, a faculty member you trust, or a fellow student.

Concerned about a student under your supervision? Contact the AWARE Network. The AWARE Network allows you to share concerns about a student’s emotional or psychological wellbeing, physical health, or academic performance with colleagues who can help.

Distract. Diffuse the situation by diverting people’s attention. For example, if you see someone treating another person in a way that’s not okay, try to distract from what’s happening. For example, you could chime in and start a conversation about an unrelated topic.

If you or someone you know experiences harassment, discrimination or gender-based violence there are resources available to help.

Want to learn more about how you can prevent violence? Check out our toolkit for faculty and staff and sign up for updates on violence prevention.

Overcome the stress of perfection

Overcome the stress of perfection

Having high expectations for yourself can be a good thing. It can help you excel at your job and in class. But having standards that are too high can lead to stress and feelings of frustration when they’re not met.

Perfectionism is the tendency to set standards so high, they’re unattainable or only met with great difficulty. Someone who has perfectionist tendencies believes that anything short of perfect is a problem and fears making mistakes.

The effects of perfectionism

Feelings. Perfectionism can cause you to feel depressed, frustrated, anxious, and even angry. If you tend to criticize yourself for not doing what you think is a good job, these feelings can be more intense.

Thinking. You might think anything less than perfect is a failure. You may believe your self-worth depends on your achievements and that others judge you based on your accomplishments.

Behaviors. Perfectionism can cause you to chronically procrastinate, have difficulty completing tasks, or give up easily on something because you don’t feel it’s perfect. Perfectionism can also keep you from being creative and innovative.

Mental health. Perfectionism is related to eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and stress.

So how can you tell if perfectionism has gotten out of hand? Ask yourself:

  • Is it difficult for me to meet my own expectations?
  • Do I feel frustrated, depressed, anxious, or angry when I try to meet my standards?
  • Do my standards get in the way of doing what I want or need to do?
  • Do they make it difficult for me to meet deadlines, finish a task, trust others, or be spontaneous?

Tips for overcoming perfectionism

Think realistically. Challenge negative self-talk with realistic statements and self-compassion. For example, when you start to be overly critical of yourself, try to be kind and remind yourself nobody is perfect.

Try a new perspective. When you don’t meet your own expectations, try and view yourself as a friend would. They’d probably highlight positive things. Sure, you didn’t work out five days last week, but you made it to the gym three times and that’s a perfectly reasonable amount.

Conquer procrastination. Perfectionists tend to put off to dos because they may be unsure how to do something perfectly. Try practicing self-compassion for overcoming procrastination.

Create realistic expectations. You have a limited amount of time and energy. Try to spend these resources on projects, assignments, and other things that are most important. Prioritizing your to do list and setting SMART goals can help you set realistic expectations.

Allow yourself to make mistakes. You might fear making mistakes, but making them is a completely natural and expected part of human existence. After you make a few mistakes, you’ll realize it’s not the worst that can happen.

The content in this post is adapted from Anxiety BC®’s guide on “How to overcome perfectionism.”

7 healthy habits for preventing flu

7 healthy habits for preventing flu

Getting a vaccine is the number one way to prevent the flu, but practicing good health habits can also help stop the spread of flu, colds, and other viruses.

To stay healthy and prevent the flu from spreading, we recommend Cougs practice the following healthy habits:

  1. Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  2. Cover up. Flu viruses can travel up to six feet when someone coughs, talks, or sneezes! Try to sneeze and cough into your sleeve or a tissue.
  3. Stay home if you’re sick. It might not feel important to miss class, work, or other responsibilities, but it’s more important to rest and avoid spreading germs to others. If you do get sick, be sure to check out our managing symptoms at home post.
  4. Kill germs. Flu viruses can live on a surface for up to eight hours! Be sure to disinfect and clean countertops, sinks, doorknobs, and other frequently used surfaces.
  5. Avoid touching your face. Germs spread when you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  6. Don’t share. Don’t borrow items such as lipstick, lip balm, eating utensils, straws, cups, toothbrushes, smoking devices like hookahs, pipes, vape pens, or cigarettes. Flu-contaminated saliva can be transferred by any of these items.
  7. Take care of yourself. Sleeping, exercising, managing stress, and eating healthy foods can all help you stay healthy. Need help with any of these or aren’t sure where to start? Check out our full list of wellness workshops on CougSync.

Managing cold symptoms at home

Managing cold symptoms at home

Do you know what to do when you have a cold? Colds are miserable, but harmless even though it doesn’t seem that way. Knowing what to do when you have a cold can relieve your symptoms and make your illness a little more comfortable.

Symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Running or congested nose
  • Cough
  • Blocked or popping ears
  • Muscle aches
  • Slight fever
  • Tiredness
  • Post nasal drip
  • Headaches

Sore throat care:

  • Gargle with warm salt water to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort (1 tsp (5 g) of salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water.)
  • Sip warm chicken broth
  • Try warm tea with lemon and honey, apple juice, Jell-O, or popsicles
  • Take frequent small sips if it is painful to swallow
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) which has anti-inflammatory effects and provides pain relief, or acetaminophen (Tylenol) which is a pain reliever only. Make sure you read the label and follow directions on the package.

General things to do to make you feel better:

  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier in your bedroom
  • Prevent dehydration, increase fluid intake
  • Breathe in steam (hot shower)
  • Rest as needed
  • Nasal/Sinus Irrigation (Sinus Rinse®, NetiPot®) relieves sinus and nasal congestion and promotes drainage.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products and avoid secondhand smoke

 Contact us if:

  • Temperature is greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. You can purchase a thermometer at our pharmacy or at any drugstore or grocery store.
  • Your symptoms become more severe
  • Your symptoms do not improve
  • You have questions
  • You feel you need to be seen by a medical provider

Many illnesses including “colds” are caused by viruses; antibiotics only affect bacteria, not viruses. To help relieve symptoms, many non-prescription medications are available in our pharmacy.

Read directions on medications to ensure:

  • Correct dosing
  • Awareness of any warnings related to the non-prescription medication
  • Possible interactions with the medications you take on a daily basis
  • Possible interactions with any health conditions you may have.

If you have questions about medications including non-prescription medications, contact our pharmacists at Health & Wellness Services Pharmacy, 509-335-5742.

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.

Help a friend with a mental health concern

Help a friend with a mental health concern

60 percent of Cougs say they want more information on how to help a friend in distress. While people can struggle for many reasons, it’s possible someone you care about will experience distress due to a mental health concern.

Stigma around mental health can cause people to hide their problem or prevent them from getting help. But talking about mental health can help overcome negative attitudes and encourage people to get help when they need it.

The best thing you can do for someone going through a mental health problem is to assure them of your support. If you have a friend with a mental health concern, try using empathy and active listening the next time you’re talking mental health.

Empathy

Empathy is about perspective taking – trying to understand what someone else is going through from their perspective. Even if you haven’t personally experienced what your friend is going through, you can still express empathy.

When someone shares about a mental health problem, don’t feel like you have to give advice or know the perfect answer. Instead, try to acknowledge their emotions and listen non-judgmentally to what they share.

Active listening

When someone shares about a mental health problem, try to listen carefully, then paraphrase what they say back to them. You can also ask clarifying questions to help you better understand what they’re going through.

One of the best ways to develop active listening skills is to ask yourself, “What would I have wanted someone to say to me during a time when I was struggling or experiencing a crisis?” It’s likely you didn’t want advice or suggestions about what to do. More than anything, you probably wanted support and assurance that you weren’t alone.

Let’s put empathy and active listening into practice. Here are some comparisons of helpful and unhelpful things to say to someone struggling with a mental health concern.

HelpfulUnhelpful
“It sounds like you’re feeling frustrated and hopeless.”Talking too much about yourself: “I know exactly how you feel!”
“What has been helpful to you in the past when you struggled?”“You just need to…”
“This sounds like a challenging time. How can I be the best help to you now?”Relying too much on reassuring: “Everything is going to be okay… you’ll get over it!”
“I don’t know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.”Not saying anything at all because you don’t know what to say.
Offer resources for support and let them decide if and when to access them. Not offering support or resources.

When you’re talking with someone about their mental health, remember that pauses and brief silences are okay. Sometimes people who are going through something need time to reflect and gather their thoughts.

Do you want to learn more about supporting someone who’s experiencing a mental health crisis? Sign up for our Mental Health First Aid class or suicide prevention training, Campus Connect.

7 tips for talking about suicide

7 tips for talking about suicide

When the topic of suicide comes up, you may feel nervous or uncertain about what to say. You might even be afraid you’ll put someone at risk if you talk about suicide. But this isn’t true. In fact, talking about suicide, even if it’s just a short conversation, can encourage people who are at risk to seek help.

Research indicates that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. But it isn’t just the media that influences people who are at risk. Conversations and reactions to suicide by peers and community members can also impact people who are struggling.

At WSU, we want to encourage members of our community to get help when they experience thoughts of suicide or other mental health concerns. To make this happen, follow our tips below to ensure you’re talking about suicide in a way that is helpful.

  1. Offer hope by sharing about the many resources and treatment options available to people struggling with thoughts of suicide
  2. Share information about warning signs and encourage others to add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to their contacts
  3. Talk about mental health concerns as a normal, common experience and emphasize the value of getting help when needed
  4. Refrain from sensationalizing or glamorizing suicide
  5. Avoid speculating and sharing misinformation
  6. Avoid using dramatic or graphic language, including discussion of methods for death by suicide
  7. Educate yourself by seeking out information from suicide prevention experts

Do you want to take an active role in reducing stigma around mental health or learn about how you can support someone experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts? Sign up for our Mental Health First Aid workshop or Campus Connect.

These tips are adapted from Reporting on Suicide’s Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.

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.