Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

The wellness ripple effect: promote mental health training in student organizations

Sharon Chang

At a large university, it can be daunting to find your place among the thousands. Peer organizations provide a smaller circle for students to connect with each other, develop personally and professionally and make the most of their time on campus. In effect, student organization leaders have an important responsibility to mold the student experience for the better. 

As we kick off the new year, student leaders have the opportunity to help their peers build a strong foundation for success. In particular, studies show that mental health is a precursor for students to thrive academically. While in college, students are more likely to neglect components of their overall well-being, such as sleep, nutrition and mindfulness, which correlates to worsened anxiety, depression and academic struggles. 

Longhorn Wellness Center offers workshops, such as Mental Health First Aid, to equip groups with essential skills for intervention, mental health support and building a safer, healthier community at UT, but it’s up to an organization’s leadership to request these resources.

While building a strong relationship with crucial campus resources, student leaders can actually promote the well-being of the entire UT community by educating and training their organization members. Psychologists suggest that wellness practices cause a “ripple effect” — our words, actions and feelings affect those around us, who in turn impact people around them, and so on. This effect extends not only among peers but also across various facets of an individual’s life, including academic performance and contributions to student organizations.

“Many of us, particularly college students, go through periods in life where we deal with more stress or mental health challenges,” said Katy Redd, CMHC’s Director of Prevention and Development. “So what (LWC and CMHC) can do is come in and provide an opportunity to discuss facts, strategies and behavior. We’re really interested in asking ‘How is this (skill) going to work for you in your life?’”

Group workshops center on topics from self-care to helping a friend in distress. By partnering with LWC to practice these skills, student leaders promote the reach of mental health resources on campus, fostering a network of support.

“There’s a really beautiful connection piece that happens when the peers deliver workshops,” said Angelique Karditzas, Health Promotion Coordinator for LWC. 

By giving students the skills to handle crises, these workshops also have the potential to prevent them in the first place. Well-being strategies help students avoid the trappings of overachievement and hyper-performance, reminding them that they are humans first and students second.

“If you, as a student leader, find that your group could benefit from one of these workshops, I think it’s a really good leadership point to be proactive about giving your group this kind of information,” Karditzas said. 

Given that the brain is not fully mature until age 20 or later, most students don’t have the emotional regulation and behavioral control to cope with the stress of college. By empowering students to recognize and address distress, they can correct problems surrounding well-being before they become unmanageable. 

Within student orgs, improved student wellness shapes team members who are more confident, motivated and productive. Wellness should be at the core of leadership priorities, and LWC workshops offer an avenue for student leaders to fulfill that crucial need while promoting a supportive campus.

Jackson is a Plan II and journalism sophomore from Boerne, Texas. 


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