Henderson counseling holds informational session on mental health

David Perez

Contributing Writer

Mental health is a topic that affects college students one way or another, either by having mental health problems or having friends who do. Yet, it’s not a problem that is openly discussed; quite the opposite, it’s usually put under the rug and ignored most of the time.

The purpose of the talk held by Erin Ladwig, a licensed mental health counselor, from the Henderson Student Counseling Services, was to spread information about mental health and to provide resources and information in case someone needed to deal with a related problem.

The conference was held on Nov. 15 at Central Campus. Right at the entrance, in the table next to the registration sheet, there were things available to pick up including brochures, pamphlets, peppermints and cards with motivational messages on one side and contact information on the other.

The forum started with Ladwig speaking about herself, about her studies at Broward Community College, then Florida International University where she got a psychology degree and finally a Master’s at Nova Southeastern University.

She also mentioned her job at the Henderson Student Counseling Services, whose purpose was to give any type of counseling to students who need it. An appointment can be scheduled by calling 954-424-6916.

“Each student has up to six counseling sessions included with the tuition,” Ladwig said. “The counseling office is off campus. We know students don’t want to be seen walking into a counseling office.”

She then presented some statistics regarding mental health. According to a survey of 74,000 college undergrads, 58 percent of them felt anxiety, 35 percent of them felt so depressed that felt it was difficult to function, 87 percent felt overwhelmed, 61 percent felt lonely and 50 percent felt things were “hopeless.”

Ladwig moved on to talk about the top five mental health challenges faced by college students, starting with depression.

“Depression is a common but serious illness that leaves you feeling despondent and helpless, completely detached from the world,” Ladwig said. “According to the American Psychological Association or APA, depression is the most common mental disorder.”

She advised that, in case someone notices depression in a friend, the best thing one could do is be a good listener and avoid telling them to “cheer up” or “snap out of it” as people who are depressed don’t have control over their emotions during downward turns.

She emphasized seeking professional help, citing resources for it, including the mentioned Student Counseling Services, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Anxiety was precisely the following topic, which was related to stress. Ladwig mentioned that there are different types of anxieties, like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

“There are all types of stress,” Ladwig said. “There is financial stress, occupational stress; you can even have stress about relationships.”

She talked about panic attacks and described them. She also gave resources to seek help about anxiety, including the APA, the ADAA and the Anxiety Resource Center.

The next problem Ladwig talked about was suicide. She started explaining that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death nationwide and the second leading cause of death of college students, which she said was “alarming.” Ladwig focused especially on detecting the signs of someone thinking about committing suicide.

“The signs of a suicidal ideation differ from person to person,” Ladwig said. “Common warning signs can appear in a person’s speech, their mood and their behavior. Suicidal people may talk about feeling trapped, feeling like they are a burden to other people and they may discuss suicide. And they may discuss it with you guys.”

Some of the warning signs mentioned by Ladwig include anxiety, loss of interest in things and activities they once enjoyed, rage, depression, giving away things they once prized, sleeping poorly or too often and increasing their use of drugs and alcohol. She also explained what someone should do if that persons notices suicidal behavior in a friend.

“Go ahead and ask them directly, “are you thinking about killing yourself?”” Ladwig said. “If you don’t ask them that question and they commit suicide, are you not going to feel guilty for not asking that question?”

If the person answers affirmatively to that question, the next step should be to make safety a priority, removing guns or sharp objects from their reach would do. Also being there for that person, listening to what he or she has to say, helps. Very important is also to give them resources, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

The next issue discussed was eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. There was a brief discussion on how body expectations in advertising play a negative part in developing eating disorders. Ladwig gave resources like the National Eating Disorder Association. The final problem discussed was addiction, where she revealed that 60 percent of all college students have consumed alcohol in the past months.

“Addiction is hard and difficult,” Ladwig said. “Because in the college culture, drinking alcohol is normalized. And drugs too.”

Some of the symptoms of an addiction include: Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, deterioration of physical appearance and sudden need for money or financial crisis and so on. For addiction, she recommended the National Institute for Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Ladwig closed the conference by giving advice on how to improve mental health. Having a hobby, getting enough rest, finding genuine people to trust or exercising were suggested by her.

“Exercise releases endorphins, which is a feel-good chemical,” Ladwig said. “Having a journal just takes out all the crazy stuff from your head. It doesn’t judge you; it doesn’t give you unwanted feedback.”

Overall, the conference received good feedback from the attendants, who praised the usefulness of the conference to not only help themselves, but others.

“I think the conference was helpful,” Amara Braynen, an attendant, said. “Not only understanding yourself and what you need, but also understanding other individuals and what they are going to do.”

Other people praised the communication between the speaker and the public. Some of the attendants, like Kyle Hart, were psychology students, so they were familiar with some of the concepts.

“It was surprising to see the people’s reactions,” Hart said. “The fact that people are surprised by things that I think are so regular and it reminds me that thoughts are not universal. As for the counselor speaking, I think she is very well with her words. I wish there were more people here who speak about it; people were very involved asking questions, although some people may shy away from it. But I think it turned out pretty nicely.”

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