IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCY OR CRISIS, CONTACT:
- Imminent threat to self or others
- Call 911
- Non-imminent threats
- Wellness Clinicians: 646-313-8165 or Microsoft Teams (Courtney.Stevenson63 and NicoleBrown77). Please note the Wellness Office is open Monday-Friday, 9 am-5 pm and a Clinician may not be available if it is after-hours. If you cannot reach a Clinician immediately, please call any of the numbers listed below.
- Public Safety: 646-313-8101
- Mobile Crisis Team Services for NYC: 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355)
- Text CUNY to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis counseling
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:1-800-273-TALK (1.800.273.8255)
- National Domestic Violence Crisis Line: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
“Whether you are struggling with your own mental health or encounter a student who is struggling, reach out for support and assistance. We are here for our students and want to connect and assist them in any way that we can. We also would love to work with you in any way that we can. Supporting our students’ mental health and de-stigmatizing mental health takes all of us.”
—Courtney Stevenson, Director of Student Counseling and Wellness Services at Guttman College
At Guttman College, Courtney Stevenson, who is the Director of Student Counseling and Wellness Services, and Douglas Medina, who is an Instructor of Political and Social Sciences, are behind enriching and innovative mental health services. The work that Director Stevenson and Professor Medina are undertaking at the college to promote positive mental health is especially crucial in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Nationally, we know the pandemic has caused an increase in mental health issues, and we have seen this to be true at Guttman and at CUNY as a whole. The pandemic caused high levels of stress, anxiety, and social isolation,” says Director Stevenson. “In addition to the general stresses associated with the pandemic, students are experiencing more academic stress as a result of the change in modality from in-person to online. They are under greater financial stress and also tend to suffer from poor sleep, which has a profound effect on mental health. I am now seeing higher levels of social anxiety since we have begun to transition back to in-person learning.”
Professor Medina concurs with Director Stevenson’s assessment. “As Courtney says, clearly, there are more reports of students experiencing elevated levels of anxiety and depression. This was already a problem that reached a critical peak BEFORE the pandemic. COVID has only magnified that trend. I have had students report that they are not doing well and it is affecting their ability to focus and learn. Research shows that early identification of mental health issues is critical in order to begin treatment that can reduce the severity and the impact of the issue.”
When asked about some of the current mental health initiatives taking place at the college, Director Stevenson mentioned the partnership that exists between the Counseling and Wellness Center, which is the mental health counseling office of the college, and the JED Foundation. In collaboration with the JED Foundation, the Counseling and Wellness Center assessed the culture at Guttman as it relates to mental health and the various services that the college offers. Based on that assessment, the Counseling and Wellness Center developed a strategic plan to further enhance what the Center offers in regards to supporting students’ mental health at Guttman.
Recently, the college has designated Peer Mentors with a specific interest in mental health as Wellness Ambassadors. “Research shows that students will go to their peers before speaking with a professional,” says Director Stevenson, “so the Wellness Ambassadors are students who can serve as a bridge to the Wellness (counseling) office.” Wellness Ambassadors work alongside the Counseling and Wellness Center to de-stigmatize mental health and develop and support Wellness programs and various initiatives.
In an effort to open up multiple access points for students to engage with the Counseling and Wellness Center, the Office offers a series of fitness classes, various workshops, panels, Instagram Live events, and collaborations throughout the semester. “Collaborations with campus partners allow us to connect with students whom we may not naturally connect with,” says Director Stevenson. “We have and will continue to work closely with diverse student clubs and organizations.” One service that Director Stevenson is particularly excited about is TimelyCare. Through CARES funding, the Wellness Office purchased TimelyCare, which is a comprehensive tele-health platform that gives students free access to medical and mental health support 24/7. “We also are getting ready to launch Togetherall,” says Director Stevenson. “This is a peer-to-peer virtual board where students can connect with one another and share their experiences.” Last but not least, staff and faculty can receive free mental health training through Kognito, an online simulation training.
Relatedly, Professor Medina emphasizes the importance of Mental Health First Aid training. In 2016, Professor Medina himself became a Mental Health First Aider. “I have been training staff, faculty, students and NYC community members since then,” says Professor Medina. “At this point, I have trained well over 600 individuals in MHFA. MHFA is a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues.” Professor Medina notes that he has always been impressed by his colleagues’ desire and eagerness to equip themselves with tools and strategies to support Guttman’s students. During the pandemic, Professor Medina, for the first time, taught the course as a hybrid training. “It took some adjustment,” says Professor Medina, “but, overall, it went well. The feedback I received, officially and unofficially, was very positive. Now more than ever, because of the pandemic, this type of training is absolutely necessary.” Indeed, as Director Stevenson says, “Our interventions have to be both individual and collective, not only to support students but also to support each other. Let’s not forget that staff and faculty are being affected by this too.” The Counseling and Wellness Center continues to offer MHFA training to staff, faculty, and students. With the help of Director Stevenson, Professor Medina aims to train student leaders as frontline Mental Health First Aiders.
The role of community in healing—and the role of community in delivering mental health services at Guttman—is brought into focus through services like Memorial Moments, previously Memorial Meals. Memorial Moments originated with Guttman Professor Dan Collins. “He was teaching a capstone course on Death and Dying when he came across a group that would host dinners for people who have lost a loved one,” says Director Stevenson. “The dinner was a chance for participants to share their experience with loss. Dan and I then collaborated to bring the dinners to Guttman. The death of a loved one requires addressing unique challenges, including a sense of isolation, a feeling of differentness, and a pressure to present a front that everything is okay. Recent research supports informal conversation over more traditional forms of counseling when processing the loss of a loved one.” The event also opened up opportunities for students who were hesitant to engage in traditional therapy to connect and receive support. When the pandemic forced faculty, staff, and students to work remotely, Memorial Meals were changed to Memorial Moments and led virtually.
Director Stevenson and Professor Medina articulate several tips and strategies that can promote positive mental health. “Checking in with oneself is so important,” says Director Stevenson. “That can be through journaling or simply stopping and asking yourself, ‘What am I feeling right now? What is bubbling up?’ Naming our feelings without judgment can be a great first step. Then we can identify how we might want to respond versus react.” Director Stevenson also emphasizes exercise and movement, good sleep hygiene, mindfulness/meditation, talking to a supportive friend or family member, being out in nature, and, of course, therapy as ways to foster positive mental health. “There are so many ways to care for and feel connected to yourself and it can look different for different people. Ask yourself, ‘What brings me joy? What brings me peace?’ Then engage in those activities.”
Professor Medina similarly underscores the importance of self-care. “Whatever makes you feel connected with your body, mind, and soul. It could be taking a walk in the park, people-watching, dancing, exercising, meditating, doing yoga… whatever! So long as you devote time to yourself. Some of us thrive on our own and some of us prefer to be around other people. Whatever helps you feel motivated and invigorated will help you promote positive mental health.”