By Alexa Dumas
Many students have returned to campus feeling anxious, lonely and even depressed during this time of uncertainty. With new changes around campus and even everyday life, students may need the support of others while having a break to be social after attending remote classes. Finding a safe place to express yourself and have your voice heard is important to students who are feeling overwhelmed, especially if they have been isolated.
The campus Student Health Counseling Center has started a weekly online “drop-in” support group for students to voice their concerns and find a sense of community and belonging. This service is more accessible to students than in person counseling, since it is being held twice a week on Zoom.
“Mental health concerns are on the rise, as a result of the pandemic,” said Christy Minck, Assistant Director of Counseling Services. “Anxiety is increasing, depression is increasing, so we also wanted to be able to assist and meet the demand.” The stresses of moving into college, academics, and even the tight living space can all affect a student’s mental health, especially during this time of COVID-19.
“I think we have all felt isolated in ways during the pandemic and we are just wanting to find ways to offer safe and accessible spaces for students to get support and validation,” said mental health counselor Kristina Moquin. “We really want to give students what they need right now.”
This new safe space was put in place to fill the void of various services the Counseling Center provides, such as individual and couples therapy, group therapy, and crisis services.
“We are trying to be flexible in offering general space for people,” said mental health counselor and outreach coordinator, Allsun Ozyesil. “It’s what’s probably needed right now the most.”
The Counseling Center is focusing on creating a community for students with similar concerns and issues regarding mental health. Sharing these common themes may help students toward recovery and normalization. “The whole idea of a peer support group too is that, you know, the students that show up in the space are here for each other as well,” said Ozyesil. Realizing that you are not alone in your personal experiences might change someone’s perspective on their mental health. “It can be very affirming when individuals know they are not alone in their experience,” said Minck. “That’s a really normalizing experience, but really healthy for people.”
The weekly mental “check-ins” not only help students create a relationship with the counselors but with themselves as well. Students have had to adapt to receiving therapy over telecommunication during the pandemic. “I actually miss meeting with students in person so badly. I feel a huge void actually,” said Moquin.
The Counseling Center hosted their first two meetings of the semester at 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday. The center hopes to gain more student involvement in this service since it is the beginning of the semester. The more involvement this support group gains is beneficial to students struggling with poor mental health.
“Just meeting new people and not feeling this lonely. These are all powerful aspects to the purpose of this,” Minck said.
Students who are interested in joining the online support group or seeking more information, can follow the Counseling Center’s Instagram, @healthcounseling_sunyplatts or give them a call at (518)-564-3086.