Mississippi University for Women holds mental health awareness event to connect students with healthcare professionals

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mississippi University for Women held a special event Thursday to help educate students and staff about the help that is available to them on campus and throughout Columbus.

“We all miss our normal and we have no idea what normal will be again,” says Dr. Deb Wells, the director of the counseling center at the W.

It’s a feeling that exists at college campuses across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on.

“Because of the COVID year, we’ve had a lot of concern, not only on campus but nationally, as far as suicide,” Dr. Wells says.

Dr. Wells says that the emotional turmoil that COVID has been creating since 2020 has taken its toll on both students and faculty.

“The anxiety and depression is what we’re seeing a lot of,” she says. “Not that we didn’t see it before, but we’re seeing a lot of it now.”

Since the start of the fall 2021 semester, Dr. Wells says the counseling center has seen about 40 more visits than usual, a significant increase for a small student body like the W’s.

That’s why Dr. Wells and the counseling center held the event in the Hogarth Student Center. It featured booths from various local agencies where students and staff could learn about the services they offer.

Participants included Community Counseling Services, which has locations in seven different counties across North East Mississippi.

“We offer residential substance abuse treatment for males and females, we have two different facilities, and we also offer mental health services, lots of mental health services,” says Brenda Long, the CCS representative at the event.

Baptist Memorial Hospital – Golden Triangle, which offers free treatment for those enrolled at MUW.

“Behavioral Health and the W have a partnership to offer students free psychiatric care,” says Analee Ryals, one of their registered nurses. “Their first six visits are free.”

As well as student organizations, like the Campus Recreation Center.

“Getting physically fit, or just enjoying a game with my friends allows me to take a moment away from life,” says grad student Jeremy Newton. “I’m not worried about what’s going on, I’m not worried about the ups and downs.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn McRee says it is comforting to know just how many places she and her classmates can turn to if they need help.

“The Counseling Center’s helped me a lot and they’ve given some good advice,” she says. “Like if we need help with anxiety, because I have anxiety.”

Dr. Wells says the goal is to make it an annual event, where they can invite more and more health agencies across the Golden Triangle to participate each year.

“If I ever need anything, I can go to anybody really, if I’m feeling homesick or isolated or depressed,” McRee says.

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