This month we are recognizing something near to my heart: Mental Health Awareness Month. Reducing the stigma of mental health is so important to all of us at Central Lakes College, that we are partnering with the Brainerd School District and Crow Wing Energized to help get the message out that it's OK to not be OK.
As a counselor at CLC, every day at work I meet more and more students who impress me. College is hard, stressful and at times overwhelming. But college is also exciting, interesting and at times, even fun! Students come to us with many commitments and responsibilities besides that of a student. They have their own children, jobs and might be helping take care of others in their family. Whew! Pat yourself on the back, I tell them, for seeing the value of learning and taking on another short-term commitment that has long-term benefits.
Most importantly, we tell our students to take care of themselves. Mental health is so important. To help shine a light on mental health, CLC started a group called Peers Reaching Out (PROs), which was made possible by a grant from the United Way. These students help advocate and bring awareness around mental health to their peers on campus and reduce the stigma surrounding it. The PROs have held information tabling events and weekly walk and talk sessions. We also brought in our first light therapy box, with hopes to add more around campus. These light boxes are especially helpful in the winter months. Finally, our Psychology Club also holds many events to bring awareness to mental health.
As a community college counselor, I want students to know that they should focus on what's right about them. In other words, don't beat yourself up over an imperfect grade or late assignment; rather learn from it.
However, if something consistently doesn't feel right, if you don't feel right, tell someone. Talk to a school counselor, a friend, a family member or doctor. Tell someone. It's a misnomer to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness and is bad. Asking for help is a sign of strength and courage. Really. It's OK to not feel OK. Ask for help to figure out why and what you can do to feel better. There is help. There are resources. If it's easier, you can call a crisis line anonymously just to talk to someone. You can even text a helpline to "talk" anonymously.
So, what can you do to help? Try something. Next time you find yourself saying the standard "Hi. How's it going?" Stop and really listen to that person's response. For help, call 800-462-5525 or locally 828-HELP, or text HOME to 741741.
Karsnia is a counselor at Central Lakes College