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Sunday, May 16, 2021

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SDSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services offers a wide range of services to support the well-being of students. SDSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services offers a wide range of services to support the well-being of students.
 


SDSU Expands Resources to Support Student Mental Health

The expansion of programming and hiring of new therapists underscores the university’s efforts to prioritize whole health.
By Ryan Schuler
 

“One of the strongest qualities of our counselors and department is the emphasis on meeting students in varied and innovative ways.”

85%: That’s the percentage of college students across the United States who said they were experiencing high to moderate levels of stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, based on a study of 2,500 university students last spring.

As the world was forced to quickly adjust and adapt, in-person classes, studying with classmates in the library and intramural sports were quickly replaced by virtual classes held over Zoom and online support offerings. 

San Diego State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (C&PS) has expanded its capabilities by developing new programming and hiring several therapists and clinical case managers to further prioritize student success. 

“We’re seeing increased anxiety and loneliness in students, and that’s partly because they are not able to use the coping skills they have used before, for example, exercise, going out and seeing friends,” said Mary Joyce Juan, a therapist at C&PS. “And at the core of that is anxiety is having to adjust to a life that is so different than it was a year ago.”

C&PS offers a wide range of services to support the well-being of students at SDSU, focusing on counseling, crisis intervention, coping skills and preventative care. When the university pivoted to virtual instruction last spring, C&PS swiftly shifted its services to virtual within days to ensure student resources and services remained available and uninterrupted.
The transition forced C&PS to develop creative solutions to reach students who were no longer on campus. The creative solutions included the creation of drop-in Zoom spaces to allow students to speak with a therapist and workshops on stress management, time management and coping with COVID-19. They also continued and expanded their collaborations with academic departments and centers on campus such as the Black Resource Center and Women’s Resource Center to connect with more students.

C&PS has also launched a new podcast, State YOU., which features discussions about mental health and other issues from the perspectives of therapists, experts, and most importantly, students. Created by C&PS therapists Chandler Riley and Devon Berkheiser, who co-host the podcast, State YOU. is available on Apple, Spotify and other channels.

The intentional and creative outreach helps to provide students with the support they need. For some students, this connection creates an entrypoint for additional services. 

“We believed it was important to go out and meet students’ needs, not waiting for them to seek our services in our offices,” said Jennifer Rikard, director of C&PS. “One of the strongest qualities of our counselors and department is the emphasis on meeting students in varied and innovative ways.”

Kaitlin Chau is a peer educator at C&PS and an advocate for mental health. The psychology major and president of the Active Minds student organization on campus provides outreach to students on behalf of C&PS. While mental health has always been a topic of conversation of university campuses, the isolation and loneliness resulting from the pandemic has brought the topic to the forefront.

“Many students are in the mindset that they can’t ask for help or don’t know how,” Chau said. “Hopefully offering opportunities to have those conversations will help students be successful. It’s too bad it took a pandemic to open everyone’s eyes to the importance of mental health. I’m glad SDSU is providing these resources for students to explore and reach out for help if needed.”

With its expansion of programming and the hiring of new therapists and clinical case managers, C&PS continues to go above and beyond to provide support for students. These efforts align with SDSU's five-year strategic plan, "We Rise We Defy: Transcending Borders, Transforming Lives."

“It’s amazing we’ve been able to expand during this time,” said Juan. “That speaks to how the students value mental health, how the university values mental health. We are expanding not only to continue offering services more efficiently, but also because we value diversity of perspectives and experiences among our therapists. Our student body also values different perspectives, and I’m really excited we’ve been able to honor that.”

Although it may be difficult for many students to pick up and phone or log into Zoom to ask for help, C&PS wants all students to know they are only a call away. Every student who calls will talk to a therapist and will receive a personalized set of recommendations based on their unique needs and experiences. 

“I want students to know they’re not alone in what they’re going through,” said Juan. “It’s difficult to see because we are virtual and the world is isolating. Whether it’s talking to one of us or reaching out to another student space at the university, we’re here to start the conversation.”