By Lawrence Chatters, MA, psychology intern at Counseling and Psychological Services
Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center Counseling and Psychological Services staff members share with our students the profound feelings of shock and sadness following the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
As we struggle to process this incomprehensible act of violence, we acknowledge that many of our students may be struggling as well. Following these national tragedies, it is common to feel fear, frustration, anger, sadness and helplessness. It is during these times that we should reach out to those in our support system.
We at CAPS are here to provide additional support if needed. Students may call our office at 402.472.5000 Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make an appointment or walk in during office hours if they are in crisis. After hours, students can call us to speak to an on-call therapist if they are in crisis.
You can also join us Tuesdays from noon to 1 p.m. in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center for a dialogue on recent events, their impact on mental health and how you can take care of yourself in the process.
If you have experienced relationship violence or sexual assault, it’s not your fault and you are not alone. Help is available. Please call the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Victim Advocate, Morgan at 402.472.0203 or meet with her during office hours Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. in the Women’s Center, Nebraska Union room 340. Please direct email to Morgan at email@example.com.
By Belinda Hinojos, PhD, licensed psychologist
Counseling and Psychological Services staff members share with our University of Nebraska-Lincoln students the profound feelings of shock and sadness following the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
As we struggle to process this deeply troubling event, we acknowledge that many students may be struggling, as well. When these national tragedies occur, it is common to feel fear, frustration, anger, sadness and helplessness.
With such a tremendous loss of life, the impacts of this event reach across our country and communities. It is during these times that we should reach out to those in our support system. We at CAPS are here to provide additional support if needed.
Students can call the CAPS office at 402.472.5000 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to make an appointment or reach out to us in the evenings if they are in crisis.
Students may also join CAPS Tuesdays from noon to 1 p.m. in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center for Dish It Up, a dialogue on the recent events, their impact on mental health and how students can take care of themselves in the process.
It’s normal to want to fit in, be accepted and feel a part of the group. So when you stumble into a situation where there’s peer pressure, it can be difficult to navigate, especially when the pressure is indirect (e.g. You saw a friend try a drug and you feel curious about it or you’re at a party where everyone is drinking and you have FOMO).
When you are with people who share the same values, beliefs and preferences as you, peer pressure isn’t often an issue. But in college, you’re surrounded by people who are different from you, so it’s likely that peer pressure will creep up at least once during your academic career. In some instances, you’ll know exactly how to respond. In others, you might feel confused or unsure. When this happens, reflect on what is important to you: your values and who you want to be.
Here are our tips for responding to peer pressure:
- Know the norms. When it comes to pressure around alcohol or drug use, know that most students overestimate the number of people who drink or use. For example, in 2016, University of Nebraska-Lincoln students surveyed by the American College Health Association perceived about 93 percent of students had a drink within the last 30 days when, in reality, only 60 percent drank. Knowing that alcohol, drug use and “hooking up” isn’t as common as people perceive can help you better resist the pressure that “everyone is doing it.”
- Consider the pros and cons. You’re finally away from home and family and have the freedom to make your own decisions. Before you start to establish your own identity, consider what will happen based on how you act. Are there potential consequences and how could those affect your goals?
- Be selective with whom you spend your time. Give yourself permission to avoid people and situations that make you uncomfortable. Don’t waste your time with people who won’t respect your decisions or pressure you to do something you don’t want to do. As difficult as it may be, remember that you can’t please or be liked by everyone, and that is OK!
- Plan a response. Practice saying “No thanks” or simply “No.” If that response makes you uncomfortable, try “Thanks, but I can’t” or “Not today.” If you aren’t sure how to respond, delay your answer with “Let me think about it” or “Check back with me later” until you have time to make a thoughtful decision. If the truth is too challenging to say, it’s OK to make up an excuse. For example, when you don’t want a drink someone has offered you and you don’t want to say “No,” try “I have to work early tomorrow” or “I’m on medication, so I can’t.”
- Remove yourself from the situation. If you are feeling uncomfortable or unsafe, don’t be afraid to leave the conversation, the friend, the party, etc.
- Speak up. If you notice another person being peer pressured, stepping in to help can show your support and send a message that peer pressure is not OK. If you can’t directly confront them, invite the person being pressured to get away from the situation (e.g., “Let’s go get some water” or “Let’s go outside and take a selfie”).
Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center is here for you, whether it’s helping you navigate peer pressure, address your alcohol and other drug use and more. Visit our website for additional information or call 402.472.5000 to make an appointment.
By Will Wysocki, PsyD and CAPS staff psychologist
Did you know there are over 1,000 suicides on college campuses each year?
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In effort to increase awareness, decrease stigma and reduce shame, Counseling and Psychological Services would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the fact that suicide is preventable.
The first step in prevention concerns acknowledging the risk factors for suicide. Here’s what to look for:
- Statements about suicide ranging from passive (i.e., “I wish I didn’t exist.”) to active expressions of wanting to end one’s life
- Increased substance use in the form of alcohol or other drug use
- Drastic changes in mood
- Withdrawal from friends and peers
- Increase in impulsive behaviors
- Aggressive behaviors (emotionally, physically or otherwise)
- Preoccupation with death or dying in the form of writing or any other form of self-expression
- Students who start ignoring coursework, missing class, and appear depressed
- Intimate partner violence or violence from another loved one
- Changes in a student’s eating behaviors and/or weight, sleeping patterns, and interpersonal interactions
- Difficulty with adjusting to sexual orientation and/or gender identity
If you become aware of any of these risks and warning signs, do not hesitate to call CAPS at 402.472.5000. Students can call 24 hours/seven days a week to speak with a counselor. If a student calls after hours, follow the prompts to be connected to an on-call counselor.
Students can also utilize other resources such as UNL Campus Police, reachable from a campus phone at 2-2222 and an off-campus phone or cellphone at 402.472.2222. Another resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).
Know the risks and take action. Remember, suicide is preventable.
by Jamie Porter, MA, health promotions analyst
September is Sexual Health Awareness Month. To celebrate, we’re counting down the top 5 reasons to use condoms.
5. They’re easily accessible
They are less expensive than other forms of contraception, and you don’t need a prescription to get them. You can obtain condoms at the Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center pharmacy, an off-campus drug or grocery store or through Protection Connection, UHC’s program that delivers condoms to University of Nebraska-Lincoln students for free.
4. They can make partners with penises last longer
If premature ejaculation is something you or your partner struggle with, condoms can help by decreasing sensation, especially if you aren’t placing lubricant inside the condom or using a thinner condom.
3. They can increase the effectiveness of other forms of contraception
No form of birth control is 100 percent effective; and human error can make them less reliable. If you’re having sex that can result in pregnancy, using condoms in addition to another compatible form of contraception can decrease you or your partner’s chances of getting pregnant.
2. They’re the only method of contraception, besides abstinence, that help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
So even if you or your partner are using another form of birth control, you’ll want to use internal or external condoms as well. They’re also not just for types of sex that can result in pregnancy. If you and your partner share sex toys, such as vibrators or dildos, you can use condoms to prevent spreading STDs by replacing the condom on the toy when you switch who’s using it. Condoms are also important to use when engaging in oral sex to prevent the spread of STDs as well.
1. Using condoms communicates to your partner that you care about both of your sexual health
What better way to show you care than with your actions?
Remember, UHC offers free safer sex supplies, some free STD testing, birth control consultations and more. Visit our website for additional details.
By Darcie Christensen, Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center physical therapist
Backpacks are the most convenient way to carry your books, homework and supplies for the day, but an overloaded or improperly worn backpack can be the sneaky culprit behind your low back pain.
A study led by Shelley Goodgold, physical therapist, found that 55 percent of those surveyed carried backpacks heavier than 15 percent of their bodyweight, the maximum safe weight recommended by most experts.
Carrying a load heavier than 15 percent of your body weight can cause increased strain on the neck, shoulders and back and lead to harmful postures such as arching the back, leaning forward or leaning to one side. These postures can causes muscles and soft tissue to work harder, leading to higher risk of injury.
Want to avoid the pain? Try some of these strategies for a back friendly bag:
- Pick the smallest bag you can
- Aim to carry less than 10 to 15 percent of your body weight
- Wear both straps over the shoulders
- Wear your backpack so that it is centered on your back
- Do not let your backpack hang below the base of your back
- Keep straps tight so weight is close to your body (wearing weight close will actually make it feel lighter!)
- If your backpack has a waist and/or chest belt, us them to evenly distribute the weight
- Clean out your bag on weekly basis to remove unnecessary items
In short, the best practice for carrying a backpack is to be a minimalist. Only carry what you have to, choose the right bag when you need one and wear it the right way.
If your backpack is causing you pain that isn’t subsiding or if you struggle with other muscle, bone or joint pain, let the UHC physical therapy team help. Our experienced staff evaluates, treats and rehabilitates a variety of injuries and conditions. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment or visit health.unl.edu/pt to learn more.
- Backpack use in children, 2002, Goodgold S, Corcoran M, Gillis J, Guerin J, Coyle JQ
- Effects of Backpack load on critical changes of trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine loading during walking, 2017, Li SSW, Chow DHK
- National Safety Council
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
By Cynthia Von Seggern, PhD, CAPS group and outreach coordinator
College can be a stressful time, but you don’t have to go it alone.
Whether you’re struggling with homesickness, depression, substance use or navigating the campus community as a minority student, a support group may help you.
Support groups bring people together who are facing similar issues so that everyone can share their experience and give or receive advice. It’s a safe space to talk, listen and get the support you need to help you cope with your concerns or situation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some potential benefits of joining a support group include:
- Having an opportunity to talk openly and honestly about your feelings
- Reducing depression, anxiety, fatigue or distress
- Gaining a sense of control and empowerment
- Developing a clearer understanding of what to expect in your situation
- Feeling less lonely, judged or isolated
- Improving your coping skills and sense of adjustment
- Getting practical advice or information about treatment options
How To Find A Support Group
- Check the Counseling and Psychological Services website. CAPS offers support groups for a variety of audiences. They are open only to University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, and most are free. If there isn’t a support group for you, contact CAPS. We may be able to start a new support group or refer you to a group in the community.
- Ask a doctor or other health care provider. They may be able to recommend a local group for you.
- Search online. Many support groups are advertised online and on social media. Online participation groups may be available as well.
- Contact local centers. Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples or community centers in Lincoln may be able to help connect you to a local support group.
- Ask people you know with similar concerns. If you know someone struggling with the same situation, ask them if they have a support group suggestion.
Get The Most Out Of A Support Group
Joining a support group can be intimidating. You may be nervous about sharing personal issues with people you don’t know. Remember that it’s OK to simply listen at first. Over time, you may feel more confortable sharing your own ideas and experiences. Or are you a first time user of a support group? Try out our Drop-In Support Group where you can ask a CAPS therapist questions, receive support about any area of concern,or learn different tools for managing stress/distress and anxiety.
As beneficial as support groups are, don’t forget that they are not a substitute for regular medical care. Let your doctor or therapist know you’re participating in a support group. If you don’t feel the group is appropriate for you but you need assistance coping with a concern, condition or situation, talk with your doctor about counseling or other types of therapy.
CAPS is here for you. To learn more about us, call 402.472.5000 or visit health.unl.edu/caps.