Self-care spotlight

Students gather around the dogs at Mental Health Day.

Weber State University held its 5th annual Mental Health Day event on Oct. 25. Students who visited the Shepherd Union Atrium could learn more about mental health. Several tables were covered in charts, pictures, activities and treats. Behind the tables were several employees of the Weber Counseling Center, talking to students who stopped by.

“The people at the table are pretty engaging,” Tami Robinette, the Outreach Coordinator for the Counseling Center said. “They’re calling students over. But once they know what the information is … they stop just to learn a little bit, maybe get a takeaway.”

Robinette mentioned that this has been a big factor for their success. Since their first event five years ago, they have consistently been able to talk with as many as 250 students.

“It’s a big impact for the time that we’re here,” Robinette said.

The Counseling Center saw the main concerns students were coming to them for and decided to create the Mental Health Day to help as many students as they could.

“We noticed that a lot of the students who came to the Counseling Center were dealing with stress, … anxiety and depression, and we wanted to take our message out to the campus,” Robinette said. “The best way to do that was to provide a really quick and easy information gathering event.”

One WSU student shared that she was surprised to learn that your five senses could be used to impact your mental health. The table she visited let students experience several objects of different textures and aromas while an employee enthusiastically talked about them.

“You can spend five minutes here, … and just get a little bit of something, a new piece of information, connect with the resources that are on campus that will be helpful to you,” Robinette said.

The most popular resource available at the event were the therapy dogs provided by Intermountain Therapy Animals. Several students gathered to pet and play with Jasper the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a dog at the event.

Jasper’s owner, Ilene Nelson, had a long list of people and places the dogs made an impact, including hospitals, care centers, schools, libraries and the airport, where the dogs help with stress from bad weather and delayed flights.

According to their website, ITA employs over 300 teams of animals. Janice Frost, another ITA employee, stated that there is a lot of training needed before these animals are comfortable around people, but the impact is incredible.

Therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs, as Frost pointed out. But Robinette still believes that “they are intuitive in the way they help.”

For many students these dogs as well as the other resources available are a nice break from the stress of school.

“You’ve got midterms on. It gets really tough,” Robinette said. “So just come and spend five to ten minutes with us.”

Robinette believes that students are more open to getting help now than they were in the past.

“I think they’re really open for any resources that would help them navigate, because it’s tougher terrain now as a college student,” Robinette said.

Robinette wants students to understand that they should be proactive in getting help if they feel overwhelmed. In her words, students are “the first responder for their own mental health.”

“They can [say] ‘I’m handling it’ or ‘I’m not handling it,’” Robinette said. “And if you start feeling like, ‘I’m not handling it,’ get help immediately, because there are resources available, especially on campus.”

The Counseling Center wants students to know they are here and don’t have to handle it on their own. They hope that having this Mental Health day provides tools and awareness to students’ mental health.