As college students undergo an extreme amount of stress throughout the semester, their mental health can often become hard to manage. Finding the help and resources they need is a step forward that is not as easy when done alone.
Despite the counseling services that are offered through the Wellness Center, located in suite 300 at University Crossing, some students said that their knowledge of this only came from orientation tours or from searching for it online by themselves.
An administrator of The Wellness Center, Melissa Wall, said she hopes the center can make itself more well known to students. As mental health problems amongst students becomes increasingly common, the Wellness Center wants to do everything it can to support all students with their mental well-being.
Wall, the program director of student mental health and wellness, said that UMass Lowell offers a variety of resources for students. While the Wellness Center offers in-person counseling services, which can be by appointment or walk-in, Wall says that students can also access help when the office is closed through an on-call clinician.
“If students are in crisis and it’s seven o’clock, ten o’clock, two o’clock in the morning, they can call the Wellness Center and dial one, and they will be connected with an on-call clinician,” Wall said.
Counseling services are not the only resources offered by UMass Lowell. “We also have other things to help reduce stress,” she said. “We have therapy dogs that come on campus. We do things like Fresh Check Day, which is an event at the beginning of October that raises education and awareness around mental health issues,” Wall said.
Wall also said that the center advises students who are stressed to attend meditation and yoga classes at the campus recreation center. The Wellness Center also sponsors a stress relief fair before finals week to help students destress.
Even with all of UMass Lowell’s available resources, some students do not know enough about them to get the help they need.
“I’m sure there is something [at UMass Lowell], but I’ve never been told directly where I would go or who I would contact,” said Nicholas DeBella, a senior English major.
Vy Phan, a psychology junior, said that she sought help from the Wellness Center but had to research the information on her own.
“I don’t believe I received any emails about it, but [sending emails] would give some students encouragement to go because in a way the school is kind of showing they’re reaching out and they’re noticing or acknowledging mental health,” Phan said .
Other students said they also agree that having faculty and staff members routinely connecting with students about available resources could be beneficial to improving mental health in the UMass Lowell community.
DeBella suggests advisors mentioning counseling services with their advisees on a regular basis. “Just making that routine connection either through email or conversation or whatever can keep students more confident to reach out about their issues,” DeBella said.
Wall said such plans are in the works. She says that UMass Lowell plans to involve all members of the community to help students access the resources they need. “We’re working with faculty and staff across the college to educate them about student mental health, about what signs to look for, about the resources available so that if they have a student that needs some support that they know how to refer them and what to do in certain situations,” she said.
She said the center plans to distribute blue folders this month to all staff and faculty which will contain information about how to help students who are struggling with their mental health including warning signs to pay attention to, how to respond to and who to contact in certain situations as part of the university’s new UMatter2 campaign.
Wall is also encouraging professors to show their support for their students’ mental health from the very beginning of the semester. “Ideally, every syllabus that you would get would have some statement of support of mental health and then also some resources on there. So that’s another way for students to get that information,” she said .
Although there are many students who seek help, some students say that those who do not may not feel ready to reach out. “I feel like if people have an issue and they feel ready to talk about it, it’s up to them and they’ll ask for help when they want help,” said Jayden Scott-Ryan, an English sophomore.
Wall said UMass Lowell wants to support students who are hesitant to seek help by reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues. By spreading awareness about mental health, the center hopes students will feel confident in getting the help they need.
“We’re going to have posters that are going to be distributed all throughout the university that will let people know about services,” Wall said. “We’ll put a few statistics out there too about UMass Lowell students so people can kind of know that they’re not alone,” she said.
She urged those who are worried about a student to submit a report to the STARs referral team. “It’s a behavioral intervention team that consists of professionals on campus from counseling to UMass Lowell police, student affairs, student conduct, emergency services, res[ident] life and so on,” Wall said.
There are also on-campus mental health trainings open to all students, faculty and staff Wall said. “It provides people with a certificate and knowledge about different mental health issues and what to do. So, it’s sort of like CPR [training], but for mental health,” she said.
Wall also said these trainings include one called Safe Talk, which focuses on suicide awareness and prevention. She said the Wellness Center’s hope in providing these trainings to the UMass Lowell community is so that students, faculty and staff can work on supporting and helping other students with their mental health .