Trigger Warning: This article pertains to mental health .
Portland State students and other students alike often underestimate the resources their university provides for them. Living in the U.S., much access to basic needs and aid are tied to larger corporations. I know, I’m also upset about it. However, as long as you are a student at Portland State in any way, you can access a variety of helpful resources from The Center for Student Health & Counseling. I’m here to tell you that these resources are here for the improvement of you and your wellbeing. I had such a positive experience, I will be sharing my story to show that the PSU resources can — and will — help.
SHAC employees point particularly to the CARE Program and Mind Spa and the Wellness & Health Action Team for reliable health resources in the community. Even better, these resources are available regardless of the course delivery method.
Wellness & Health Action Team (WHAT)
Both in virtual and in-person environments, the Wellness & Health Action Team (WHAT) is a resource that was unknown to me. Made up of a group of undergraduate health educators that work with the Health Promotion Department in SHAC, the team has collaborated on and hosted many community-driven workshops, establishing online media spaces like podcasts and their “virtual hut,” and referring hundreds of students to local Wellness and Health resources that suit their needs. Click this link to find out more information about the Wellness & Health Action Team.
The Mind Spa
The Mind Spa here at PSU is a hidden gem that is criminally underused. You can book up to 3 sessions each term either in the virtual mind spa or the one located on the 3rd floor in the University Center Building. As long as you are enrolled in at least 5 credits here at PSU, you can enjoy all the benefits of the spa, including a meditation corner, light therapy, massage chair, and biofeedback games that are focused on relaxing the mind and managing stress. The goal of your session is entirely up to you — maybe catching up on homework in a safe space — or napping the entire time in a massage chair, the Mind Spa is open to endless ways of mindful stress relief and relaxation. Click here to schedule an appointment, slots fill up quickly!
The CARE Program
I was entirely unaware of this program up until I searched for mental health help at PSU. When I found the CARE Program last winter term, I can tell you that it had a significant impact on me and my ability to pick myself up and participate in my own life again.
Let’s get to know each other. Back in January, I was, let’s say, incapable of staying on track and functioning as a normal human being. For me, functioning means I am able to leave my bed and not be crippled by the insecurities that naturally come along with living in a big skin bag.
During this time period, I couldn’t tell you how I reached out, but I fortunately connected with the CARE Program at PSU. It was my last little effort to get help. I was never concerned for my safety, so I felt as if my issues were not as important. I feared I was burdening the people I was with, my family, my friends, I didn’t want everyone to know I was tumbling down all over again. It’s not that the people in my life couldn’t help, I just knew I needed more than them at this point.
All I did was fill out a CARE referral form and within maybe a day or two I received an email explaining what the program’s goals were, followed by, in bold, if we do not hear from you, we will continue to reach out to ensure you are okay. I never felt like I had that kind of support before, I wasn’t afraid of hurting myself, but I sure wasn’t doing well and that sentence told me that someone cared about me more than I did. As someone that has been diagnosed with chronic depression and will likely need to manage it for the rest of their lives, I needed this. Badly.
The CARE Program liaises students with resources that may be beneficial to them. That could be focused on housing and food insecurity, mental health issues, or medical emergencies. Instead of trying to explain to others what’s going on, this is a person, a professional, that will speak to faculty and be the pair of eyes you may need. I’d like to consider myself a depression veteran since it’s always been an issue, I guess I thought I could manage it on my own. I still don’t have all the answers and need help like everyone else. I overestimated myself and underestimated the resources that I had already paid for by attending PSU. I never had to meet with anyone face-to-face until I wanted to go in for specific counseling resources that were provided to me. I was ready to connect with other people at that point and tackle my depression more than it tackles me. Making my desire to get better a real problem for my depression. I feel more uncomfortable in the thick soupy mess. I’m no longer comfortable there. As long as I know that I still feel like I can fight, and when I don’t, I actually believe that I’m not alone. What a concept.
However, the ebb and flow of any mental condition is something I’m all too familiar with. There will be times when I’ll retreat back to my danger zone and drown everything out with the way I used to be. When my whole body feels static and numb. And there will be times when I feel like I really could win an Emmy one day for being loud and obnoxious. It’s hard to distinguish reactive responses when you have a mental condition. After 15 years of therapy, I still have struggles with what is a healthy vs unhealthy response. My emotions are valid, but am I expressing them the best way? I don’t always trust myself, but realize I should’ve until it’s too late. I find myself asking, is this part of the human mind that experiences all sides of emotion, or are these emotions dictating my actions? So out of insecurity, I bite my tongue. I’d rather be quiet than be horribly inaccurate or reactive. I’d rather be miserable than a burden. I’d rather let others drag me down than lift myself up. Sometimes, I need someone else to care more than I do so I can get out of the dirty mental muck of depression. Thank you, CARE, for helping me find my way out.
If you or someone close to you has been struggling and needs more support, find out more information about the program here.
I’d like to give my acknowledgments to the CARE team and Liv Parks for being truly selfless and helpful to myself and the students here at Portland State.