We know discussing mental health can be challenging, even scary. That’s why Angie decided to have an honest conversation with two important groups on Bradley’s campus – the Counseling Center and Active Minds (a student-led mental health organization). Join Angie as she discusses the resources that are available at Bradley to support our student’s mental health and what students should know about seeking out these services and resources.
Angie: I’d like to welcome the Director of Counseling for Bradley University, Deborah Montgomery-Coon. Hi Deborah!
Deborah: Hi Angie! Thanks for reaching out to us!
Angie: Deborah, what is the Counseling Center? Why would you say it is necessary on campus?
Deborah: The Counseling Center is a resource on campus for students to talk to a mental health professional about any struggles that they are having emotionally, with school, in relationships, etc. It is a private confidential space for students to share and discuss their concerns. It is a necessary resource to help support and provide mental health care to our students so that they can be successful both academically and in their life in general.
Angie: Who is eligible to go to the Counseling Center? And it is difficult to set up an appointment?
Deborah: Any registered Bradley student who has paid the Health Fee is able to access services at the Counseling Center. It can seem hard to set up an appointment in that just the act of asking for help can be hard, but once a student makes the call or email, the process can be very easy. We do need to speak directly with the student as our mental health nurse asks a series of questions to help determine how quickly the student needs to be seen and which of our services may be the best fit for the student.
Angie: What kind of services are provided by the Counseling Center?
Deborah: We offer individual and group counseling in a short-term brief solution-focused model to address the mental health needs of our students. We also have a consulting psychiatrist that comes to campus 3 half days a week with a psychiatry resident to provide psychiatric care to Bradley students.
Angie: What have you seen to be the biggest barrier to students seeking out help for their mental health?
Deborah: Many students still feel that there is some stigma to seek out help or some feel that their issues are not “big enough” to need counseling.
Angie: What advice would you give to a student like that who knows they want help but are embarrassed or don’t know how to reach out?
Deborah: Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and nothing to be embarrassed about. We all need help at different times and stages in our lives. Counseling services here are confidential (with a few expectations to that for safety) and things discussed here are private and protected by law.
As you can see, our Counseling Center actively works with students. In addition to the Counseling Center on campus, Bradley offers a student-led mental health organization on campus, Active Minds. Active Minds is the nation’s premier non-profit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults. Through education, research, and advocacy, Active Minds is opening up the conversation about mental health and creating lasting change in the way mental health is talked about, cared for, and valued in the United States.
Angie: I’m here with two executive board members of the student organization Active Minds. Could you start out by telling us a little about yourselves?
Alyssa: My name is Alyssa Pagan and I am a Junior at Bradley. I am majoring in Creative Writing.
Gabi: My name is Gabi Necastro. I am also a Junior at Bradley and double majoring in Business Management and Social Media Marketing.
Angie: Thank you for joining us today. What, in your words, is Active Minds?
Alyssa: We are the mental health organization on Bradley’s campus. We offer Bradley students mental health resources, support, and a safe community to speak shamelessly about the journeys of mental health. Our overall goal is to break the stigma surrounding mental health struggles as a whole.
Angie: Wow, that is powerful. You say it is student run… so does that mean students counsel other students?
Alyssa: Yes! While none of us are professionals, we do know what it is like to be a student at our age and stage in life. We take our positions very seriously and believe in breaking the mental health stigmas that are present in our society.
Gabi: We offer support for those that are in need, however, for advance issues, we refer students to the Counseling Center. For example, if a student is feeling stressed out because of tests and assignments, we offer support and give them coping ideas. If there is any indication that a student is considering self-harm or suicide, we refer them to the Counseling Center.
Angie: It sounds like you work alongside the Counseling Center on campus. What is your relationship like with that office on campus?
Gabi: We have someone from the Counseling Center show up to our meetings anytime we are discussing a triggering topic and have the potential to upset someone. If the Counseling Center has any programs, such as their anxiety group last semester, we also spread the information to our students.
Angie: And what types of events or programs does Active Minds offer on campus?
Alyssa: We host mental health guest speaker events, mindful arts and crafts events, bonding events, discussion-based events, etc. We are offering students the opportunity to sit with others for study table events, which are hosted randomly by one of our executive members, and we also have an annual de-stress with pets event that happens at the end of every semester.
Gabi: We offer a lot of coping skill events as well as educational. We’ve held a BIPOC speaker, Men’s Mental Health Speaker, and a speaker to discuss Eating Disorders. In addition, we’ve hosted journaling events, coping skills, coloring nights, and other events showing different coping skills.
Angie: We often hear that asking for help is scary or maybe someone is afraid to ask for help. What have you seen to be the biggest barrier to students seeking out help for their mental health?
Alyssa: Fear of being judged by others. This is why our main goal is to eradicate mental health stigma in our society, because it prevents people who are struggling, which is a normal thing to experience, from getting help. This can often times lead to tragic outcomes. We are working to prevent that from happening and advocate for everybody to be heard, seen, believed, and supported regardless of who they are or what their struggle is.
Angie: What advice would you give a student who knows they want help but are embarrassed to reach out?
Alyssa: You have nothing to be ashamed of. Deciding to seek help means you are in tune with your needs, LISTEN TO THAT! The counseling services on campus are welcoming, understanding, and, of course, nonjudgmental. They will work with you to find the best fit for your needs and you can always decide to stop going whenever you feel it is necessary. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting with a counselor, one on one, you can come and speak to one of the executive members or members of our Active Minds chapter here at Bradley. I can personally vouch for every person on our executive board and confidently say that we are all generous and understanding toward those who reach out to us about their personal struggles. If you are searching for a counselor outside of Bradley, we may have some resources on file that we can refer you to.
Angie: Can you describe your favorite event or activity that Active Minds has done on campus?
Gabi: My favorite thing has been spreading the word about mental health across campus with every event we host. I love being a place where students feel comfortable to talk about what they’re going through and offering a huge support network.
Alyssa: A while back, before I was part of the executive board, there was a men’s mental health seminar. A male speaker came in and discussed his journey with his mental health. There were quite a lot of men who attended that event and were interacting with the speaker. This was extremely moving to see because mental health stigma has a deep effect on men. We also don’t have as many male members as I believe we could so seeing that many men present, speaking openly, and asking questions was very moving.
Angie: If someone is interested in finding out more about Active Minds, how can they do that?
Alyssa: We are available on Instagram: @activemindsbradley, join our discord: Active Minds, or email us at email@example.com. Thank you for helping us #breakthestigma.
Thank you to everyone who joined us today to discuss mental health awareness and the resources that are available to Bradley students. It is important to actively talk about mental health with parents, students, friends, and faculty to break the stigma of asking for help. If you would like to know more about Bradley’s Health Services and Counseling Center, click here.