talk about it

Iowa State has a student health and wellness unit made up of Student Counseling Services, Student Wellness, Thielen Student Health Center and Recreation Services. The unit offers many resources for improving mental health, ranging from weekly groups to suggested wellness apps.

Editor's Note: In the spring 2019 semester, the Iowa State Daily introduced “The Talk,” a series with the goal to open up discussion about intimacy among our readers. This semester, we hope to bring in the discussion about mental health through our series “Talk about it.” 

Throughout this series, we will discuss issues such as awareness of resources, finding the right therapist, breaking down mental health and more. We plan to publish one story each week for the rest of the semester addressing an issue related to mental health. 

Our hope is by the end of the series, we may have opened our readers up to discussions in ways they hadn't thought of or may not have felt they were able to speak about before. 

Mental health can affect a lot of our readers and it’s time to talk about it.


Mental health can be a sensitive topic to discuss among peers, but at Iowa State there are many resources available for those who need it and want to learn more about their mental health.

“You have a student that can come from far away, they’re away from their support system and they’re trusting that the university will take care of your most prized possession — which is your children,” said Tim Denger, police officer and detective for the Iowa State Police Department. “You know I have children, I’m a father of three teenage daughters, so I would want that university and the people that work at the university to be carrying the compassion enough to do whatever is needed for my daughters. As a father, I take that approach.” 

Iowa State Student Counseling Director Christopher Hanes said college mental health connects with all areas from social to academic life.

“Mental health and wellness and academic success are inextricably linked,” Hanes said. “College is a period of growth, transition and challenges and one’s holistic wellness including mental health is important when navigating this experience in successful ways. Providing mental health services supports the academic mission in promoting a successful and healthy learning experience. A significant rate of student dropouts in college are linked to mental health concerns.”

Iowa State provides a student health and wellness unit that includes on-campus resources from areas such as counseling to medical services as well as other areas. Student Wellness, Student Counseling Services, Thielen Student Health Center and Recreation Services are part of the unit. 

“This past year we served seven percent of the ISU student population and our utilization has increased 33 percent over the past five years,” Hanes said. “Nationally, we have seen a 30 percent to 40 percent increase over the past five years. The trends in number of students seeking help is six times the growth in enrollment during the same period of time [according to the] Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Demand for crisis-related services continue to increase with students using more crisis intervention services. At [Student Counseling Services] we have seen a 146 percent increase in crisis-related services over the past five years.”

Student Counseling Services is located on the third floor of the Student Services Building with 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. walk-in hours Monday through Thursday, as well as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. crisis hours Monday through Friday.

Student Counseling Services offers various groups including “Self Love” and “Anxiety Group” as well as workshops such as “Create Your Own Calm.” 

“[Student Counseling Services] utilizes a stepped care services model that provides brief counseling services to enrolled ISU students,” Hanes said. "[...] A way of viewing [stepped care services] is as a system that is designed to meet the continuum of mental health needs on campus by providing a tailored support plan for each student to best meet their needs. We meet with students and develop a support plan that considers all these service options to best meet their needs.” 

The Stepped Care Model is a process that starts with “Self Help,” which includes a crisis text line as well as online and app-based programs. Hanes said Student Counseling Services recommends apps such as “Calm,” “Breathe2relax” and "Insight Timer." 

“These apps provide skill development and guided resources to support wellness and coping,” Hanes said.

Hanes said Student Counseling Services is “currently exploring” online self-help services and they have the goal to offer it soon.  

“We offer a large number of weekly groups designed to promote connection, support and skill development for students to address their needs,” Hanes said. “We also have a new team called the Care Management Team and they provide intensive case management support services to students when bridging to community for our most at-risk clients.” 

For the “most at-risk clients” Iowa State Police Department offers services such as a welfare checks. Kinsey Phillips, the mental health advocate and program coordinator for Iowa State Police Department, said a welfare check is when a family member or friend call to check in on someone they believe has a mental health crisis, and Phillips or Denger will go to the scene and speak with the person. 

“What that looks like — the actual welfare check — is if one of us are available or both, we would go and actually go to the residence of that person or wherever they’re at and just make sure they’re okay,” Phillips said. “If they need to go to the hospital, we can transport them to the hospital and take them to the emergency department there. If they don’t need to go to the hospital, we can provide resources or say 'we’ll reach out to you tomorrow and make sure you’re doing okay' — whatever that may be.” 

Phillips said if neither she nor Denger are available, an on-duty police officer will respond to the welfare check. Denger said Iowa State Police Department will try to provide study breaks during midterms and finals week as a way to give students a break from their studies. 

“What I call [a] study break, we’ll just go to the library and just [say] 'Hey we’re here, we’re not asking for anything, we just want to give you a break,'" Denger said. "And it’s neat to see the reactions on people and our students and just [say] 'Hey, you know what? Keep doing what you’re doing, have some sugar, have some cookies and fight through it.'”  

Denger said he also wants to build the relationship between students and officers. 

“We want people to be able to trust our officers and know that they’re highly trained, they’re highly skilled and they’re highly compassionate,” Denger said. “[The officers have] broken that stigma that they had and could have had, you know with mental health as well, I know I had to do myself and that’s why I’m so passionate about mental health.” 

For students who are looking to maintain their mental health, Hanes said he would recommend students to be prepared, healthy and commit to a wellness routine. 

“We have built a community [...] on campus to support students' growth and wellness during their collegiate career,” Hanes said. “ISU is a place where you can embrace life challenges within a compassionate and supportive environment. I recommend students consider three steps to their mental health. One, be prepared and learn the signs of distress and resources/steps you can take to get support. Two, be healthy and be successful at ISU; commit to a wellness routine and refuel yourself regularly. Three, get connected; form connections with others on campus through formal or informal communities and resources and pursue pathways to get support when needed.”

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