Students learned about available resources both on and off campus for combating mental health issues at the Mental Health Resource Fair that took place on Trousdale Parkway Monday morning. The fair, which was part of October’s Mental Health Awareness Month, was organized by the Undergraduate Student Government’s Academic Culture Assembly.
The ACA, which is made up of 12 member organizations, aims to cultivate academic curiosity in students. Mental Health Awareness Month aims to overcome the stigma related to mental health and help students talk about their issues. This year’s student-led campaign theme is “Self Care and Community Care.”
The Mental Health Resource Fair included the participation of representatives from various organizations like Student Counseling Services, The Painted Brain, Disability Services and Programs, Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services, Asian Pacific American Student Services, Student Support and Advocacy, the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion, Breathe SC and the Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice Clinic. Students were able to chat with the representatives and learn about the resources and services they provide.
The Student Counseling Services provides individual counseling, group counseling and psychiatry services. They also offer outreach programs where they arrange educational workshops on a range of topics. There are several groups that are offered by them where students get to share their experiences and relieve anxiety and stress. They organize events like yoga apart from other stress-reducing activities. They also have drop-in hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for emergencies, where students can walk in and ask to meet any counselor to discuss their concerns. For non-emergencies, a student needs to schedule an appointment. Apart from this, they also have crisis therapists who are available 24/7 to help students.
The Disability Services and Programs’ goal is to help students with disabilities gain an equal standing in all facets of their experiences at USC. They offer a variety of support services and students can utilize them by registering with them on their website.
“Our office is to help students be as successful as they can be,” said Sourena Haj-Mohamadi, a postdoctoral fellow at Disability Services and Programs. “They have great strengths and challenges and our office is to help those students.”
The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services provides confidential counseling to students who have experienced any kind of sexual or gender-based harm during their stay at USC. RSVP has created a peer outreach program called Violence Outreach Intervention and Community Empowerment that engages students in preventing sexual violence and gender discrimination and also supports students who have gone through this trauma.
Shannon Lam, a sophomore majoring in human biology and gender studies, is a member of VOICE who spoke on the program’s impact on the USC community.
“[VOICE] is a great program that a lot of different communities can use,” Lam said. “[For example], they can have us give a presentation to get the message out to different cultural groups on campus. We are open to people coming out to us and we want to help them and spread awareness about relationships and sexual violence.”
The Asian Pacific American Student Services engages Asian and Pacific American students in a dialogue and facilitates their participation in order to empower them. They are also offering in-house counseling, every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., in which they will bring people from the Office for Health and Wellness Promotion to help students. They want to have counselors and therapists of color, because that would be more impactful in helping students who look like them, according to Alex Kanegawa, a senior majoring in policy, planning and development.
“I think what the Academic Culture Assembly is doing is really great,” Kanegawa said. “Their idea of a holistic student involves mental, physical and emotional well-being, and they are taking a great amount of steps to provide resources and give all the support that a student might need.”
The Office for Wellness and Health Promotion organizes “happy hour,” which seeks to promote a healthy environment at USC, and wants to help students manage stress and develop self-care skills. These classes are free and include yoga and other stress relief exercises. They also have a program called “Pause for Paws” that involves a visit from a therapy dog once a week on campus, where students can engage with dogs and reduce their stress levels.
There is also an open group meditation program called Breathe SC that takes place every Monday from 1 to 2 p.m. and every Thursday from 2 to 3 p.m. at Thornton Quad. It is organized by Natalie Raphael, one of the co-founders of BreatheSC.
“We don’t necessarily guide you, but we give you a space where you can just calm yourself down and focus on your breath and feel a sense of stillness,” Raphael said. “I used to have really bad anxiety and worry about things for no reason, and meditation has taught me to feel this sense of stillness and not worry about the past or future but focus on the present.”
Nitya Pydipati, a data informatics graduate student, believes students must attend such events to know the services and programs that USC provides so that they can utilize them.
“I think it is great that we have so many facilities here at USC and students can greatly benefit from them,” Pydipati said. “We need to overcome the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, and students should approach these organizations to overcome problems and discuss their issues.”