Faculty discuss warnings of poor mental health

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

Mental health issues on campus are increasing not because more students have mental health issues, but because health professionals are getting better at diagnosing cases, campus health officials said at a recent meeting.

“Mental health is optimal, physical and emotional health functioning,” said Janet Mullen, director of Student Health and Counseling Services.

Over a dozen faculty members gathered together at The Learning Center (TLC) to discuss student mental health issues Dec. 3. The event, which was organized by TLC coordinator Madeleine Andrawis, is part of the Faculty Discussion Series.

Mullen was one of three guest speakers at the discussion who told the faculty what warning signs of distress students may exhibit.

For Del Lonowski, political science professor, that’s precisely why he attended the discussion.

“I didn’t know how to react to students that may have problems,” Lonowski said.

Lonowski has never seen distress signs in his students before, but he knows that mental health is an existing problem.

“The problem that I see is that I or other people don’t recognize it until it’s too late and they’ve dropped out of school or whatever,” Lonowski said.

The overall emphasis of the discussion was on preventative measures to take. Several faculty members said the discussion was a step in the right direction, but Lonowski still has a few questions.

“Most of what I learned is that there are people on campus that can help,” he said. “I’m still not sure when I should send a student or refer a student to them, but it’s a beginning.”

“If a student ever questions whether or not they have a problem; that, to me, is the indicator that they should make a call,” Mullen said.

Students can schedule an appointment through SDSU health or counseling clinics. Sometimes all he or she needs is one appointment.

“We’re not going to have you go through eight to 10 sessions if you don’t need it,” said Mullen. “They could come in for one session and we could give them some resources.”

Mullen said there is a stigma attached to mental health issues. If a student doesn’t want to go into the offices, Tish Smyers, associate professor of nursing, provided examples of other measures students can take.

“I think if they are feeling overwhelmed, they need to sit down and look at what coping mechanisms they are using,” Smyers said. “You can use coping mechanisms that are very healthy or you can use coping mechanisms that are very negative.”

Some negative signs of distress include excessive procrastination, excessive alcohol usage, marked changes in physical hygiene and impaired speech or disjointed thoughts.

Although each student copes with their stresses in different ways, Smyers said there’s universality in the stressors.

“You’re never alone. Others are feeling the same thing,” Smyers said.

One point that Mullen stresses is that the service is free.

“I just really want students to know that this is great service and it doesn’t cost anything,” Mullen said.

#1.885557:736026187.jpg:mental health 1.jpg:Ruth Harper, a counseling and human resource development professor, talks to faculty members about different issues surrounding mental health.:Jeremy Fugleberg