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A tumble on a campus sidewalk, papers scattered from a backpack, a struggle with a heavy door. As witnesses to such incidents, we’d make sure that the person who fell is OK, lend a hand collecting the paperwork and hold the door open. 

Other signs of distress aren’t always as obvious. Stress, anxiety and depression are less recognizable, and, for college students, they are always a concern. Fortunately, TCU has made mental and emotional health a priority for students as well as faculty and staff. 

“Over the last 20 years, there’s been a change in society around mental and emotional health. As society changed, the university had to change too,” Brad Stewart, associate director of fitness and wellness education, said. “As a university, we’ve embraced the idea of balance, with a focus on wellness as the best performance-enhancing tool. From physical to emotional to spiritual needs, people, especially young adults, are now resource seeking for all these different aspects.” 

Because students today may be more willing to express that they’re struggling and reach out and talk to someone, faculty and staff are on the front lines and can be an advocate when students are in a mental health crisis, he said.  

“There are red flags, like grades and absences. How students are presenting themselves, their physical appearance, body language and their behaviors, like being agitated or fidgeting, are indicators.”  

Because of the small class sizes at TCU, Stewart said faculty are better attuned.  

“We have good support structure because if you’re seeing a student two to three times a week in the classroom, lab or clinic, you can pick up on how they are behaving differently.” 

He acknowledges that it’s not always easy to intervene when someone’s struggling. 

“Start with a simple conversation and focus on them as an individual. Say something like ‘I’ve noticed some changes. How are you feeling?’ As their advisor or professor, they’re already listening to you, and if you can infuse personal interactions, that’s the first step. The more that people are acknowledged, the more they have sense of community and belonging and are willing to share when they’re struggling.” 

As an advocate, you don’t have to be highly trained – you just need to help students know how to navigate the campus’ resources, he said. When it comes to the programs that Campus Recreation & Wellness Promotion offer, there are two major sources:  

Wellness Education Office  

The Wellness Education Office is the primary source for mental and emotional health programming.  Wellness Education offers a variety of workshops by request. For example, when professors know they will be out of class, a “Don’t Cancel that Class” Wellness Education workshop is an option. Workshops specific to mental and emotional health are: QPR: Suicide Prevention; Stress Management; Relaxation Techniques; Time Management; Mental Health Allyship; and Benefits of Sleep. 

There’s also a regular Wellness Calendar of workshops each semester. These and the other workshops are provided by either full-time staff or graduate assistants who are trained in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), a nationally recognized program that trains individuals to become “gatekeepers.”  

“By having us focus on primary prevention education, it frees up Counseling Services, Religious & Spiritual Life, Dean of Students Office and the Health Center to focus their efforts toward intervention and crisis management,” Stewart said.  

The Wellness Workshops are student-focused but available for anyone on campus to attend.  

Peer Educators 

paper heartsThe other major source for programs is Peer Educators. Led by undergraduate students, these planned outreach tabling events and educational campaigns teach wellness skills and provide regular activity-based education opportunities. 

“Peers listen to peers,” Stewart said, adding that these students teach for the love of helping people and as a way to give back. Peer Educators conduct the research (supervised by staff), market the events, create handouts on their activities, often held in the Commons, BLUU or library. Topics and activities typically include: 

  • Art Therapy 
  • Attitude of Gratitude 
  • De-Stress Dance Off 
  • Self-Care
  • Mid-Semester Mindful Reset 
  • Emotional Intelligence 
  • De-Stress Fest 
  • National Suicide Prevention Week tabling 

“As a society, we’re more comfortable talking about topics like suicide, sexual assault or depression that 15 to 20 years ago we had very few resources and programs to address,” Stewart said. “Now, as a university, we’re stepping up and doing something to help students take care of themselves.” 

For more information, visit the website.  

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