Editor's note: This is part six in our weekly mental health series "Talk About It." Sensitive content may follow.
Mental health is an important part in the everyday lives of Iowa State faculty and staff, just as it is for students.
Stephanie Downs is the wellbeing coordinator for ISU WellBeing. Downs came to Iowa State in April 2014 as the university’s first wellness coordinator in University Human Resources. She obtained a master’s degree in health promotion and has over 20 years of health and wellness experience.
“What we know, mostly from surveys and comments from different workshops [is] that [...] a lot of it ties around stress,” Downs said. “We certainly know that sleep has become an issue for a lot of our faculty and staff [and] is a concern as much at is for students. The workload stress, kind of work-life balance issues from the workload to what everyone else deals with [...] is certainly on top of the list.”
An increase in mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, has shown up across the workforce in America, and Iowa State has resources available to faculty and staff who may be struggling.
While the Student Counseling Services on campus doesn’t provide services for faculty and staff, there are other available options.
There is a confidential Employee Assistance Program open for Iowa State employees. The program has master's-level counselors available 24/7, and faculty and staff can also be referred to counselors in the area for support.
“We have a lot of different trainings and workshops around reducing stress, finding purpose, building teams,” Downs said. “So on a little bit less clinical aspect, there’s support in that way, and I think that departments are continuing to look for resources.”
All of the resources offered by ISU WellBeing can be found on their website.
Nathaniel Wade is a psychology professor and director of Network Community Counseling Services. Wade is a licensed psychologist in Iowa and has been leading group counseling for over 20 years.
The Network Community Counseling Services is located on the basement floor of Science Hall 1, room 56, which is in the southeast corner of the building. They offer low-cost individual and group counseling for those who are 18 years and older.
“We specialize in group,” Wade said. “So [the] one thing that we are really good at and really value is kind of a group therapy situation, but when we have openings for individual and people want to do individual, then we can make that happen.”
As the primary supervisor for the Network Community Counseling Services, Wade offers support to the other counselors there. He also supervises the group therapy sessions, which are led by doctoral students in counseling psychology. Wade said people typically think they need to see an individual therapist, but group therapy can work for most concerns they may have.
“Our groups are mixed,” Wade said. “We have people in there with relationship concerns, going through divorces, people who have had past abuse or people who have anxiety or depression or both. The idea is then for us to connect with each other and to use those relationships in the group to help us to explore growth and health, healing in a lot of cases and leveraging the relationships and closeness that can be built in a group to do that.”
Those interested in the services offered by the Network Community Counseling Services can call (515) 294-1898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iowa State faculty and staff can also find services in the Ames community or reach out to places nearby, such as the Des Moines area.
“The faculty and staff have very good insurance that covers their treatment,” Wade said. “Most of the providers in town would carry that insurance.”
An aspect of counseling people might not think of is the therapy the counselors may receive. Being a counselor can get overwhelming and stressful at times.
“More specific from my perspective of training therapists, anybody who’s actually doing pretty intense counseling, absolutely, I tell all my students we should all be in therapy,” Wade said. “It’s super important for us to have that support, to have that experience to be able to work on our own stuff because we’re so much in that.”
Utilizing counseling services can aid faculty and staff with struggles they may experience in their professional and personal lives. People may experience hesitancy to attend counseling or reach out for help due to the stigma that surrounds counseling and what it entails.
“I think number one is to reach out, not to be hesitant to look for support, look for those resources,” Downs said. “[...] Everyone is going through it to some degree, and we all need support. It’s really about that human connection, being able to find the right support at the right time.”
Other tools faculty and staff can make use of are available apps such as Headspace for meditation and Breathe2Relax for breathing exercises. These apps may not be a long term solution but can be helpful for those who use them.