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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Personal Counseling Available to WCC Students

Sometimes you have a problem and need someone to talk to.

Maybe you’re too embarrassed to talk to your family or friends, or think they will judge you. Or maybe they’re what you need to talk about.

If you need a friendly ear that doesn’t judge but does help find solutions, the counselors at Counseling, Career Planning & Employment Services welcome your visit. They’re available Monday through Thursday from 8:00am to 6:30pm and Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm on the second floor of the Student Center building.

“Everybody has issues at some point in their lives,” said Kimberly Groce, who’s one of the counselors. “It’s OK to get help.”

The counselors are best known for helping students choose classes and plan their careers. But they also can help with a variety of personal issues, ranging from temporary bumps in the road to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

“Our goal here is to have a successful student,” said Edwina Jarrett, a social worker who provides short-term therapy. Achieving that goal requires looking at students holistically, she said, and helping with issues they may have either inside or outside school.

Students are sometimes reluctant to ask for help but shouldn’t be, said Cole Jordan, another counselor. “If you need help, you should take advantage of what we offer,” he said. “Our purpose is to provide the support that you need.”

Students Juggle Many Responsibilities

Students today face more pressures than ever before. “They have a lot more responsibilities at an earlier age,” said Rhonda Gilmore, another counselor. Many WCC students juggle school, work, and family obligations.

Families and relationships top the list of personal issues that counselors see most often. Other common issues include problems with money, classes, and personal health.

The help that counselors provide can range from a single chat to short-term counseling with one of WCC’s professional therapists. Counselors typically help students assess their issues and, where needed, refer them to community resources for more assistance, said Cindy Haeck, another of the professional counselors who are licensed to provide personal, academic, and career counseling. All counseling is free and confidential.

All counselors—including the therapists—also do academic advising. This means there’s no way for anyone to know why a student is in the office. “When they’re in our office, I think students feel genuinely safe,” said Groce.

College Years Can Be Stressful

Students who come to WCC straight out of high school are in the midst of a transition that can be difficult. And older students who come to WCC to get retraining—perhaps after losing a job—face a transition with its own set of issues.

Some students thrive on the changes, but others can become sad or anxious. Temporary feelings of sadness or anxiety are common for almost everyone, but if they persist they may signal the onset of depression. “When a person has a depressive disorder, it interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her,” according to a publication from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The symptoms suffered by people with depressive illnesses vary in type, severity, frequency, and duration. Here are some of the most common symptoms, according to the NIMH:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once found pleasurable
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

In rare cases depression can ultimately lead to suicide, which is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Jarrett, the social worker who provides therapy, is on the board of Washtenaw Alive, a local suicide prevention group.

She and WCC’s other therapist provide short-term counseling for students with mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, and clinical anxiety. She refers students who need further help to their family physician if they have health insurance or to free and low-cost clinics if they do not. “There are lots of different services in the county that people aren’t familiar with,” she said.

More Help Available Online and By Phone

Here are some reliable resources for more help or information:

  • ULifeLine offers depression screening for yourself or a friend and fact sheets about a wide range of issues, including anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, grief, holiday depression, seasonal affective disorder, shyness, stress, and test anxiety.
  • The Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection has publications from numerous colleges and universities about topics such as addiction, anger, depression, eating disorders, relationships, sexual orientation, and study skills.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health offers information about everything from anxiety disorders to suicide prevention.
  • By dialing 211 (477-6211 from a cell phone), students can reach a free, confidential service that provides referrals to hundreds of health and human services resources throughout the area.
  • Washtenaw County Public Health has a list of mental health providers that offer services to lower-income people.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers toll-free help 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

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