Taking care of your mental health

Published: April 28, 2022 Author: Staff reports

After a challenging and stressful few years, it’s more important than ever to be aware and take care of our mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and there are many programs and resources available to Ohio University students.

“May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness for a while now, and it’s a good time to make people aware of just how much mental health can affect us,” Eileen Marsal Koch, a counselor with Ohio University Counseling and Psychological Services said.

Especially during the last two years, Marsal Koch said there has been an increase in mental health issues due to the stress of COVID in our society. According to the World Health Organization, people worldwide had a 25 percent increase in anxiety and depression during the pandemic, with young people and women being the hardest hit.

“I think we’re just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg to see how much this pandemic has affected people’s mental health. It’s been really devasting. At the University, we are seeing so many more students who are struggling than we ever have before,” she said. 

If there were any positive things to come from the pandemic, it might be the way people are more aware of mental health issues now and more willing to discuss them.

“In the past, whenever a family member had depression or anxiety or some type of disorder, families often kept that very private. Whereas if someone in their family had a physical illness or a broken arm, they wouldn’t be trying to keep that a secret. I think that this generation is so much better about discussing mental health and accessing those services,” Marsal Koch said. 

Despite the gains in mental health awareness, there is still much work to be done. Many students still report that their families don’t believe in mental health issues or medication, making it difficult for them to open up about their struggles. 

“They don’t believe in medication or mental health issues. It’s more of the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and ‘try harder’ and ‘don’t be lazy’ and all those things. When people have things like depression and other illnesses, it’s so invalidating to hear, ‘you’re just not trying hard enough’ instead of acknowledging there is a struggle and it’s real,” Marsal Koch said. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) works to de-stigmatize mental health and work with families and individuals who struggle. Each year NAMI hosts walks for mental health awareness throughout the country, including one held in Athens last October. 

“I used to work with the Cleveland NAMI, and every September, they would have walks up there, and there would be hundreds and hundreds of people. It was a really powerful way to show people that it’s important that we talk about mental health and having them know there is hope and there is help out there,” she said.

Students are invited to walk into the CPS office, with locations in the Hudson Health Center, Lindley Hall, and the Living Learning Center, to discuss their problems anytime. There’s also the Active Minds organization on campus to help students struggling with mental health. 

“We have Counselors in Residence in the Living Learning Center on South Green, and they are there every night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Friday. The only night they are not there is Saturday. Students can walk in and be seen confidentially by one of our counselors - they are staff of CPS - and they can get help for an immediate crisis, coping skills, help processing something or whatever they help for,” Marsal Koch said. 

Throughout the Athens community, Hopewell Health Services in Athens has a crisis phone line, available 24/7, that can dispatch a mobile crisis team to help people during a challenging moment. The Hopewell hotline is available by calling 740-593-3344. There are also outdoor resources around the community, such as the farmer’s market, bike trails, and hiking, to help reduce stress and anxiety. 

NAMI Athens can be reached by calling 740-593-7424, and the Ohio University Office of Counseling and Psychological Services is available on campus by calling 740-593-1616.