CAPS Staff: Suicide Is Preventable

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.

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Top 5 Reasons to Use Condoms

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. 

How To Wear A Back-Healthy Backpack

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. 

Sources:

  1. Backpack use in children, 2002, Goodgold S, Corcoran M, Gillis J, Guerin J, Coyle JQ
  2. Effects of Backpack load on critical changes of trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine loading during walking, 2017, Li SSW, Chow DHK
  3. National Safety Council
  4. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Need A Hand? A Support Group Can Help

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.

The Benefits

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.

Know These Alcohol Laws, Policies Before You Drink

Choosing to drink alcohol at a party today can affect your future, and I’m not just talking about that hangover the morning after!

Making informed decisions and weighing the pros and cons before you act is something you can do now to ensure you can have the best future possible.

Check out the laws and policies pertaining to alcohol consumption below so you can make the best decision for yourself when it comes to drinking:

MINOR IN POSSESSION

Drinking under the age of 21:

  • Up to $500 fine / 90 days in jail (or combination)
  • Parents may be notified
  • Student Code of Conduct violation

INMATE OF A DISORDERLY HOUSE

Knowingly participating in illegal activities at house:

  • $250-$500 fine / 6 months in jail (or combination)
  • Student Code of Conduct violation

DISORDERLY HOUSE

Tenant allowing illegal activities or disturbing noise:

  • $250 to $500 fine/six months in jail (or combination)
  • Student Code of Conduct violation with the possibility of probation or suspension, and/or required education

FAKE ID

Possessing false identification:

  • Up to $500/90 days in jail (or combination)
  • Student Code of Conduct violation

PROCURING

Providing alcohol to someone under the age of 21:

  • Up to $1,000 fine/one year in jail (or combination)
  • Student Code of Conduct violation with the possibility of probation or suspension, and/or required education

OBSTRUCTING A PEACE OFFICER

Interfering or obstructing a police investigation:

  • Up to $1,000 fine/one year in jail (or combination)
  • Not eligible for pre-trial diversion
  • Student Code of Conduct violation

DUI

Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs:

  • Mandatory $500 fine
  • Mandatory 7 to 60 days in jail
  • Mandatory six month driver’s license revocation (one year if BAC over 0.15)
  • Student Code of Conduct violation

PUBLIC URINATION

Urinating in public: 

  • Up to $500 fine/six months in jail (or combination)
  • Student Code of Conduct violation

FALSE REPORTING

Lying to law enforcement:

  • Up to $1,000 fine/one year in jail (or combination)
  • Student Code of Conduct violation

It’s also important to remember: 

  1. Some of these violations are eligible for pre-trial diversion. If eligible, average cost of diversion is $275.
  2. Violating the law can result in rescinded graduate school and job offers, fines, court costs, red flags on a background check and more.
  3. It is a university policy violation to possess or drink alcohol in any university residence hall, regardless of your age. It is also a policy violation to be in a room where alcohol is present, event if you are not personally drinking. Know that university policy violations, much like violations of the law have consequences. You can find the potential University Housing consequences clearly outlined in the resident rights and responsibilities.
  4. Student Legal Services may be able help by providing free legal advice. Learn more at http://go.unl.edu/sls

     

Learn more at the Campus Alcohol Risk Education website.

For more information about Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center, visit health.unl.edu.

Five Ways to Plan a Fun, Safe Party

With the first Husker game of the season quickly approaching, you may be considering hosting a party or tailgating with friends to watch the game or celebrate.

Parties and tailgating can be fun – until they get out of hand. When red cups litter the lawn, cars block driveways or the street, and shrubbery becomes a toilet, it’s gone way too far.

There are steps you can take as a party or tailgating host to help things go well. Follow these five steps to avoid problems at informal get-togethers.

1. Make a plan, follow the plan, and let others know the plan

Making a plan is the most important step, and it doesn’t have to take long or happen far in advance. Answering the following questions will help you create the event you want.

  • How many guests do you want to attend?
  • What types of food and non-alcoholic beverages will you provide?
  • What do you want to do together?
  • What problems do you want to avoid?
  • What will make the event a success in your mind?

Once you’ve created the plan, it’s important to stick to it. Be sure to let everyone know what type of event it will be so they know what to expect. Tell your neighbors and your landlord about your plan. They may be able to help you create the most successful plan.

If the home you plan to use for a party is not your own, know that you’re still liable for any issues, property damage, and could be cited for a disorderly house if things go awry.

2. If alcohol will be present, control it

There’s a reason why bars have bartenders and not open spigots or bottles, and it’s not just so they can make money. Having someone behind the bar, whether it’s a third-party vendor/bartender or someone who is at least 21, helps you control the amount of booze people drink, keep drinking to individuals above the age of 21, and sets the tone for the role of alcohol in the party.

More importantly, it keeps the very small percentage of students who don’t know their limits from getting wasted on your alcohol. An alternative, especially for informal parties, is to have guests who are 21 bring—and drink—their own alcohol where permitted.

After all, if a guest under the age of 21 drinks too much and causes harm to someone, as the social host you could be liable, too.

Remember that your student organization, sport club, fraternity or sorority cannot purchase alcohol with organization funds. This includes any funds serviced through Student Organization Financial Services (SOFS).

3. Make the party about more than getting drunk

There’s got to be something more than just getting high or drunk at your party or event. Making the party about something other than getting drunk is easier when you provide alternative beverages and some food. And what do you want to do together — Get to know new people? Have good conversations? Tell each other stories? Dance? Play a game or other activity? Watch a band, film, performance, or sporting event together? There are endless possibilities; you just need a little planning and some creativity.

When selecting your activity, remember to keep noise in mind – you might like having a band in your backyard, but what about the neighbors? Noise complaints are one of the most common issues that lead to police showing up.

4. Have one or two sober party/event monitors, and empower them to take care of problems

You may not need a stereotypical bouncer, but you can probably see why most clubs have them. Some people don’t know what is appropriate in social situations, they don’t know their limits, and they won’t respect you, your guests, or your property.

You need one or more individuals who will step in to stop a disaster from happening, ask someone to leave, intervene in a tense situation, or deal calmly with the police or other authorities if they show up. The party/event monitors need to be empowered to keep the peace and to prevent problems before they begin.

5. Be proactive with the police and other authorities

Despite your best efforts, unwanted problems can pop up at events and parties where alcohol is present. The best approach is to be proactive with the police (e.g., talk with campus and community police officers about safe party strategies, call the police when unwanted guests arrive or get too rowdy, work with the police to resolve issues peacefully).

Get to know the police officers in your area, and if they show up uninvited, work with them. Being defensive or obstinate gives them more cause to investigate or cite you. They are most likely responding to a complaint from a neighbor, and need to be reassured that you have matters under control.

If problems at the party lead to citations, know that you will be contacted by the Dean of Students Office. However, demonstrating that you’ve taken steps to make a plan, control your guest list, provide non-alcoholic beverages and food, and mitigate problems could be beneficial. Student Legal Services may be able to help and provide you with free legal advice.

If a party gets busted and your Recognized Student Organization (RSO), sport club, fraternity or sorority may be implicated, the organization’s president should contact staff in Student Involvement, Campus Recreation – Sport Clubs, or the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to proactively provide information.

Learn more at the Campus Alcohol Risk Education website.

For safe drinking tips, read this blog post

For more information about Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center, visit health.unl.edu.

Tips for Drinking Safely

By Kirsten Licht, MS, health promotions analyst

With the start of Husker football season, the end of a second successful week of classes and the upcoming holiday fast approaching this weekend, you might be planning ahead for how you’ll celebrate.

If your plans include consuming alcohol, remember these fast facts to keep yourself safe and healthy this weekend:

  1. Know your serving sizes. The proper portions are 1 oz. of 100 proof liquor, 5 oz. of table wine and 12 oz of beer or wine cooler
  2. Many drinks are poured into larger glasses, so you may be drinking more servings than perceived. Use this calculator to help you determine your drink size
  3. The alcohol percentage may vary by brand, so always check the label before you drink
  4. Always drink water in between alcoholic drinks
  5. Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, so be sure to eat a protein-filled snack if you drink
  6. Watch what you are mixing with your alcohol. Avoid mixers with lots of sugar or caffeine
  7. If you are underage, know that violating the law can result in rescinded graduate school and job offers, fines, court costs, red flags on a background check and more. Learn more

Additional resources: 

If you’re ever concerned about your drinking habits, Counseling and Psychological Services can help. Call 402.472.5000 or visit our website to learn more about our alcohol services