Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Health & Wellness Services Division of Student Affairs

Toolkit for supporting students in distress

Toolkit for supporting students in distress

Student Affairs is currently developing a toolkit that faculty and staff can use to help students who are in distress. The goal of the toolkit is to ensure students have a successful academic career by getting them connected to campus resources that will support their specific needs.

Faculty and staff play a key role in the lives of students. They work closely with them and are often able to notice when a student is having a hard time.

With the help of the toolkit, faculty and staff will be able to recognize potential signs of distress, respond in the moment, and connect the student to appropriate campus resources.

The guide will cover a wide range of concerns. For example, if a student experiences the loss of a family member, financial issues, violence, or a mental health concern, the guide will offer steps for helping the student and connecting them to specific campus resources.

To develop this guide, we reviewed similar toolkits from other universities and sought feedback from WSU faculty, advisors, deans, administrators, and staff. Our team decided to adapt a guide created by UMatter at UMass and tailor it to the specific needs of our community.

The toolkit will be available this fall in an online format. If you want to know when it’s live, you can subscribe to receive email updates about suicide prevention and mental health promotion.

Accomplishments during grant’s first year

Accomplishments during grant’s first year

We recently met with members of the Campus Mental Health Collaborative to discuss ongoing suicide prevention and mental health promotion efforts.

During our meeting, we talked about goals for the SAMSHA Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant and what we’ve done so far.

SAMSHA grant goals

Promote mental health through campus-wide partnerships. Together, collaborative members are actively looking for ways to support each other’s mental health promotion efforts. For example, during our meeting, departments brainstormed the idea of adding a mental health component to their staff and student trainings.

Offer suicide prevention training. Last year we began offering suicide prevention training, Campus Connect. Over 430 Cougs have taken this training and we expanded it to an online format.

In addition to education on best practices for responding to someone in crisis, Campus Connect teaches essential communication and relationship building skills. Departments like Athletics and Residence Life find this training so valuable, they require their employees to take it.

Collect and evaluate data to refine our mental health promotion activities. We want all Cougs to get more information about suicide prevention and to get help if they experience a mental health concern. To measure our progress towards these goals, we use data from the National College Health Assessment and quarterly grant reports. This data will also help us understand how we can support students’ changing mental health needs.

Expand and improve programs for students. This past spring, we launched a stress management texting program which sends students tips for managing their stress – over 680 Cougs have signed up! Currently, we’re expanding this program for student-athletes, and we hope to offer it to more groups on campus.

Moving forward, we plan to adapt content from a research-based stress management workshop. We also are looking for faculty collaborators to evaluate the texting program.

Inform Cougs about support services and decrease stigma around mental health. We’re working with a team of students in the Murrow College of Communication on a campaign to promote a mental health screening tool and educate students about resources and suicide risk factors.

For the remainder of our meeting, collaborative members gave updates on their current mental health promotion activities and we brainstormed ways to use existing resources to expand our efforts. The meeting concluded with feedback on a guide for responding to students in crisis, which is currently in development.

We look forward to building relationships with collaborative members and supporting each other’s work. If you would like to learn more about the collaborative and stay up-to-date on mental health promotion and suicide prevention, you can subscribe to receive email updates.

Try light therapy for seasonal affective disorder

Try light therapy for seasonal affective disorder

When the fall and winter months roll around and there’s less sunlight, some people experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of depression that occurs during a specific season, and subsides for the rest of the year. Symptoms of SAD are different for everyone, but they can include low energy, poor mood, fatigue, and similar symptoms.

How light therapy can help

If you’re experiencing SAD or other types of depression, consider trying light therapy. Light therapy involves using a specialized lamp that mimics real sunshine and produces similar benefits. It can help improve mood, regulate sleep hormones, increase levels of vitamin D, and relieve other symptoms of SAD.

For best results, our healthcare providers recommend using light therapy for 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning. You’ll want to sit 16 inches to two feet away from the light, without looking directly into it.

Before you try light therapy, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about risks, benefits, and other special considerations.

What to look for when buying a light therapy lamp

Want to buy your own light therapy unit? Try to get one with at least 10,000 lux. This level of light is optimal for reducing symptoms of SAD.

If you’re a client with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), you can use the light therapy lamp in their relaxation room (Washington Building room 302A). To access this lamp, all you need to do is talk with a CAPS staff member at the front desk during regular business hours.

Light therapy is just one treatment option for SAD and other types of depression. There are many other options you can try! If you’re experiencing any symptoms of depression, don’t hesitate to drop in during Counseling and Psychological Services’ walk-in hours, or make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

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.”

Campus-wide support for mental health

Campus-wide support for mental health

This week, the Campus Mental Health Collaborative will meet to discuss ongoing suicide prevention and mental health promotion efforts.

The collaborative launched last fall as part of Health & Wellness Services’ involvement in the SAMHSA Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant and the JED Foundation campus program.

Currently, we’re streamlining campus crisis protocols to ensure students in distress get the support they need. Members are also in the process of implementing suggestions from the JED Foundation. For example, Health & Wellness Services and Counseling and Psychological Services are working to better integrate medical systems and expand the number of suicide prevention and mental health training opportunities.

At the upcoming meeting, we plan to review a guide for helping faculty and staff respond to a student in distress. Members will also give updates on their priority projects for mental health and discuss options for expanding access to trainings on other WSU campuses. We’ll continue to look for ways we can support each other’s efforts.

The meeting will take place on October 5, 2017 at 10:00 am in Lighty 405. All are welcome to attend.

To stay updated with mental health promotion and news about the collaborative efforts, make sure you subscribe to our mailing list.

Numbers show mental health promotion success

Numbers show mental health promotion success

Recent data shows we’re successfully promoting mental health on our campus.

We strive to share information about suicide prevention and mental health with as many as students as possible, and we want to encourage all Cougs to get help if they need it.

We’ve done a lot in the past three years to meet these goals. For example, we hired a position dedicated to mental and emotional health, expanded the number of training opportunities for responding to students in crisis, and started regularly sharing about mental health here on our blog!

Latest data from our annual National College Health Assessment shows encouraging results for mental health promotion at WSU.

Cougs are getting more information. By 2016, the number of Cougs who said they received information from WSU on suicide prevention increased to 47 percent – a 14.2 percent increase from 2014.

Cougs are more likely to get help. By 2016, 73.3 percent of Cougs reported they would consider seeking help from a mental health professional if they were experiencing a personal problem that was really bothering them. In 2014, only 66.4 percent said they would consider getting help.

Cougs are utilizing campus mental health services more. According to internal data from Counseling and Psychological Services and Behavioral Health, during the past three years the number of students accessing campus mental health services has increased by 19.4 percent.

Moving forward, we will build on our efforts to share about these important topics with students and encourage them to get help when they need it.

This October, the Campus Mental Health Collaborative will reconvene to discuss ways we can continue to support students’ mental and emotional health at WSU.

You can subscribe to receive email updates about mental health and suicide prevention.

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.

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.

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.