Engaging with mental health resources at Virginia Tech
A student's perspective
Coming into my sophomore year in 2018, I was suffering from suicidal thoughts and an extremely poor self-concept. A close friend encouraged me to seek out therapy options at Cook Counseling Center. I decided to seek individual therapy and join the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Skills Group. Having two professionals help us develop skills and awareness about our thoughts and feelings in a safe space provided a sense of community, connection, and self-understanding. Now I feel empowered when I can use some of the skills I learned from DBT in my conversations with others about their mental health struggles.
Destigmatizing mental health is important, and communicating about these issues is incredibly valuable—to ourselves and to our communities. It is an extremely positive cultural development that people can be empowered to speak about – and comforted speaking about – their mental health and illness experiences more openly and honestly. At the same time, no one should feel forced to divulge their vulnerabilities if they are not comfortable.
Throughout my time at Virginia Tech, I have learned that there are many different ways to communicate about mental health experiences. Finding different ways to address and communicate about mental health is a process that differs from person to person, and part of the collegiate journey is figuring out what that looks like.
I have found that writing is an extremely effective way for me to process the thoughts and emotions that fluctuate with the stressors of life. Whether it has been writing my own poetry and rap lyrics, or incorporating mental health into my research project during my time studying abroad with the Presidential Global Scholars, I have found ways to better understand and empathize with myself while also creating something that can connect with other people, including my friends and professors. My research, which was about peer mental health counseling systems at colleges and universities in the U.S. and U.K., found that students sometimes feel more comfortable speaking to their peers or people who have similar experiences or cultural backgrounds rather than professionals.
Last semester, Active Minds at Virginia Tech hosted Mental Health Initiatives Coordinator Swathi Prabhu from Hokie Wellness, who presented one of my favorite workshops: Helping a Friend in Distress. This workshop helps you identify signs that someone you know is in distress, understand how to talk to someone in distress, and provide referrals and resources to help if necessary. It is a wonderful resource and one of many workshops that Hokie Wellness provides for students.
My cousin is a first-year student at Virginia Tech this year, so I’ve been thinking about campus resources for her and other incoming students. There are many different mental health resources, so there is plenty of opportunity to find the source that works best.
Whether it’s the Women’s Center, Cook Counseling Center, Hokie Wellness, Cultural and Community Centers, Dean of Students Office, Active Minds and other amazing organizations on campus, a resident advisor (RA), or a fellow Hokie, people are here to support your student.
Saad Khan is a senior studying Clinical Neuroscience and Psychology, part of the Honors College, and the secretary of Active Minds, a student-led group that works to increase awareness about mental health issues and actively create change in the Virginia Tech community.