Student services host mental health discussion

By Luis Quintanilla

Volunteer State Community College will host “Let’s Talk About Not Being Okay,” a conversation with students about dealing with the lows mental health or even daily life may bring, on Nov. 12.

It will take place in the Wood Campus Center in Mary Cole Nichols Dining Room B from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Lunch will be served and Krista Mazza Carter, a faculty member and licensed professional counselor, will speak to students about not being okay.

According to Tiffany Zwart, Coordinator of Student Support, the discussion is aimed to break down the stigma surrounding mental health or even just when students are simply not feeling okay.

“What we want to get across to our students is that really in life in general there are times where we don’t feel okay. There are times when we feel sad or mad or confused, and we don’t understand and we don’t want to talk about it,” said Zwart.

The event will be in discussion format. Rather than simply listening to a speaker, students will connect by hearing other experiences and bridge the isolation they may often feel according to Zwart.

“I think when we start sharing our experiences with others it helps us to recognize that we’re not alone in our feelings or our experiences. That is my hope. That students will see that their feelings are not, while they are particular to them, unusual and there’s nothing wrong with them,” said Zwart.

Zwart said the more people talk about these things the less embarrassed they will feel and the less alone they will find themselves.

“We don’t become an island where we’re all by ourself and our feelings,” said Zwart.

Zwart stated that the Office of Student Engagement and Support hosts different talks every month over different topics to reach out to students and make them aware of areas of support.

“We’ve never done this talk of not being okay, but we’ve had talks about sexual assault, domestic violence, and absolutely we’ve been able to connect students with resources. We’ve been able to connect them with other students so that they can discuss their common experiences together, and that has been helpful to them. My hope is that there’s always more students that show up,” said Zwart.

The idea for this month’s talk came from the stress this time of year may have on some people according to Zwart.

“Especially around this time of year as we move into the holidays. If you have family that you’ve lost, or your holiday doesn’t go as expected, or if you are struggling financially. The holidays are extra hard. So hopefully that will bring students in,” said Zwart.

Zwart encouraged any student to come and listen.

“I would just encourage them that like every single one of us, we are struggling with something, so there’s no shame just coming to hear about it. It doesn’t imply that there’s anything wrong with you. And even if you have a mental health issue, it doesn’t imply anything is wrong with you. I just want students to come and listen and really just acknowledge that it’s okay to not be okay. I mean really, we just want students to know that it’s okay. We want them to feel better, but at the same time it’s okay to talk about it when we’re not okay,” said Zwart.

“And we’re here,” added on Zwart. “Our offices are here if students are not feeling okay. This is the place that we like them to come so that we can direct them to outside resources. Student Engagement and Support, and we’re in Wood 215,” said Zwart.

The support struggling students can get isn’t only limited to this discussion remarked Zwart. Students can always pass by the office of Student Support for more resources.

“We do have an iPass voucher program,” said Zwart. This program is for students who are in need of mental health care either in counseling or testing services.

“They have to come through our office, and we need to determine eligibility. If they are eligible, then we send them out into the community, we have a provider list, and we pay for six sessions of mental health counseling. That’s totally free to our students. It’s just a service we provide, because we don’t have a counseling center on campus, and we want our students to know that we have that program available to them, and I don’t think a lot of our students are aware,” said Zwart. According to an information packet about iPass, any student taking 6 credit hour or more may be eligible.