The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the health of millions of people— both physical and mental. In an effort to help students, employees and residents, OSU Center for Health Sciences Department of Wellness has launched the Let’s Talk About It mental health initiative.
“For years we’ve been fighting an uphill battle on the stigma associated with mental health. As a society, we’ve accepted this idea that dealing with mental health challenges means there’s something wrong with me and that’s just simply not the case. Seeking out counseling services is no different than working with a personal trainer, visiting a financial advisor, or seeing your primary care physician,” said OSU-CHS Health and Wellness Manager Jesse Chaffin.
The Let’s Talk About It initiative aims to begin normalizing supportive measures for mental health. All the mental health services and resources available to the CHS community are located in one place on the OSU-CHS website, okla.st/letstalkaboutit.
As a part of this initiative, the Department of Wellness has expanded its mental health services for both on and off campus populations.
The department has partnered with TAO Connect, an online platform designed to increase access to behavioral health tools and support.
The platform has a variety of self-help modules available for participants to access anonymously on their own. In addition to the self-guided experience, TAO can be used in tandem with OSU-CHS’ counseling services to enhance in-person sessions. TAO utilizes a method called low intensity-high engagement therapy, combining online educational modules and practice tools along with short virtual counseling sessions with a therapist.
“This is an exciting resource for us to be adding to our list of offerings. We’ve always had a hard time reaching our off-campus population, and TAO is leading the way in many areas of behavioral health and we believe this service will help our department support those away from our home branch here in Tulsa,” Chaffin said.
The Department of Wellness is also utilizing a new suicide prevention training program, Kognito, which is designed to help campus personnel and students recognize warning signs of psychological distress, build skills to encourage help-seeking behaviors, and offer others a referral to suicide prevention support services.
Kognito was made available at no charge through a partnership between the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s Campus Safety and Security Task Force and Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to address the growing number of suicides across the state.
In addition to the new services, the department offers many other resources for students, employees and residents who all have unique stresses and anxieties, as well as programs and offerings for people who are concerned about a friend, classmate or co-worker.
"We want to normalize access to mental health services and programs. Everyone struggles with mental health challenges to some degree. The Let’s Talk About It site highlights all the things we are doing to support the CHS community, and the format is easy to follow. Whether you’re looking to help yourself or a friend, we’ve got you covered."
Some of those free resources include counseling services and resiliency training as well as campus-wide training programs such as Mental Health First Aid and QPR to help faculty and staff recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges and distress in colleagues or students.
Members of the OSU-CHS and OSU Medicine community can also submit a non-emergency Care Report, anonymously if needed, if they are concerned about a student, employee, or resident. The Wellness Support Team will then evaluate the concern and respond as necessary to the situation.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health. Wellness is a multidimensional concept— there’s physical health, mental health, occupational, environmental, there’s finances, social dynamics— there are so many pieces. Each and every one of those are dependent on each other, they’re all interwoven, and each has the ability to impact the other,” Chaffin said. “This pandemic brought to light a lot of the mental health challenges that each and every one of us deal with on a daily basis. Our hopes are to create a supportive environment and a culture that cares, so no one feels isolated or alone.”
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