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SXU Promotes Wellness During Mental Health Awareness Month


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it's extremely important to the SXU community that we support our students in living healthy lifestyles and ensuring we can provide resources for those in need. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Saint Xavier University (SXU) faculty and staff have been working hard to ensure that students continue to be educated for competence, character and career success and have access to support services they need to excel. In an effort to both provide some normalcy and promote mental health wellness, the SXU community supported its students in various ways. 

While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact mental health, and the COVID-19 pandemic's disruptions have proven very stressful. To provide students with helpful tools and resources, the Student Success Program and Counseling Center hosted an educational virtual Zoom webinar focused on helping students learn practical ways to reduce stress and improve mental health and emotional well-being.

"Now more than ever, students need to learn how to thrive in a classroom-less environment. Students are stressing about financial obligations, grades and about how long this pandemic will last. Knowing healthy coping skills to deal with stress can mean having a successful academic semester and regaining a sense of control during these dire times," said Student Support Specialist Alejandra Sandoval Martinez.

"I think it's important to continue these kinds of presentations and workshops for students so that they know we at the University are adapting to this situation. Yes, we want things to be business as usual as much as possible, but that also means changing how we do things and the kind of information we provide them so they can best stay on top of the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic," said SXU Counselor Matthew Marjan. 

The Counseling Center also remains committed to serving SXU students during the summer months through telehealth services. Additionally, they've done outreach to SXU nursing alumni working on the front lines by offering an outlet with two free counseling sessions.

"We extend our sincere gratitude for all our nurses have done for their patients and communities during these uncertain times. We are here to help them if they are struggling and looking for a way to process the issues they are experiencing," said Brian Kelley, director of the Counseling Center.

Campus Life and Campus Ministry worked hard to create a Virtual Student Organization Center and held weekly events, including virtual office hours, trivia and game sessions, study hours and fun educational sessions. Their goal was to maintain a sense of community for students, and they focused their efforts on finding and supporting programming that brought students together. Knowing that the need for connection and social support became even stronger during the pandemic, the team worked together to be innovative while maintaining familiar programming in a new modality.

"Our graduate students made themselves available for virtual office hours and we also had virtual faith-sharing groups. Some of the group meetings online would go even longer than scheduled because the students were enjoying being together so much! I hope that in carrying on a virtual space and virtual programming, we kept to the goal we always have of serving the whole student – helping them grow in scholarship, leadership, spirituality, character, and compassion – and of course, giving them space to have fun!" said Deirdre Kleist, director of Campus Ministry.

Art and Design Professor Catherine Ruggie Saunders recognized how deeply the pandemic affected her students, especially with the disruption of their senior thesis exhibition, so she proposed an assignment that would call for them to use their personal voices to address the situation.

"I wanted them to dig deep inside themselves and understand that responses in any media can bring awareness to a viewing audience. The unique insight that one artist/designer presents might just be the perspective needed to touch another human being to take action," said Ruggie Saunders, who hoped that through the project students might discover media, concepts and themselves in ways they may not have done otherwise. Each student created a piece done in their unique style as a way to contribute to a greater understanding of, strong comment upon or warning of the consequences of the viral pandemic. Art as therapy can be an incredibly beneficial tool to promote mental well-being.

Although our faculty, staff and students have missed being together in person, they've managed to unite together in compassion and care for one another to ensure success and well-being across the academic lifestyle, and we will continue to promote mental well-being this month and daily. Together, we care for one another; together, we are SXU.

For more information, contact the Counseling Center at 773-298-4045.