University of Utah students have many mental health options available to them

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Story and photos by KAYLEE ANDERSON

There’s a rising epidemic on college campus and it’s not what you would expect.

Mental health is becoming a problem and it reaches new heights with young adults between the ages of 19-25, the typical demographic of college students. With so many new stresses coming into play, 49.5 percent of adolescents are affected by some kind of mental health disorder, according to

The University of Utah understands these problems and has many resources for students who need help. For example, the Counseling Center is located on the fourth floor of the Student Services Building. Most students aren’t aware of the services that are provided to them.

Steve Lucero is the center’s associate director. He encourages students to come check out the center and everything it has to offer. Lucero says that depression in college is a normal thing that can happen because of major life transitions, and for most students, college is the first big event that occurs in their lives.

“The magnitude of changes and lifestyles can be a difficult adjustment that triggers depression and anxiety,” Lucero says.

Lucero and the rest of the counselors at the center say that process is quite easy to follow. Students can call or come into the center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Once they are there, they take a survey with a series of questions to determine the measure of distress the students are in.

If the students are in crisis, a crisis center is available at all time for them. Being in crisis is when you are in a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. If they aren’t in crisis mode but still want to get help, they will be assigned a counselor and an appointment time. Group counseling, yoga, workshops, or individual counseling is available. The intake appointment, crisis center and workshops are all free for students. The group counseling is only $5 and the individual sessions are $12. These are very reasonable prices Lucero says.

The counseling center has two advanced practice registered nurses who can prescribe medication, which can be the next step after talk therapy.

Lucero wants more students to be aware of the services provided on campus.

Ashley Nagel is a sophomore at the University of Utah. She says her depression was very much heightened when she first went to college. Nagel says that moving away from her parents in Draper, was very hard and she didn’t realize how big of an impact it was going to have on her mental health and body. Going from a family house setting to a dorm room can be hard for young adults without them even realizing it. Nagel also says that she thought she had to have everything figured out when she first got to college, which heightened her anxiety.

Nagel hasn’t used the services on campus, but she wishes they were a bit more advertised because she feels like many students don’t know they exist. That is what Lucero is trying to accomplish by using social media and presenting to classes and other university groups about the center and all it has to offer.

Nagel says, “My depression is mostly socially related, so when I found a solid group of people that I felt genuinely comfortable with, my depression became a lot less of an issue.”

According to Self Magazine, 30 percent of people who suffer from mental illness never seek treatment.

Devin Johnson, a sophomore at Salt Lake Community College, says drugs and alcohol may have something to do with it. “Everyone just wants to party so they become distant from their real friends and befriend people who just like to use drugs and alcohol because they are so caught up in the having the college experience,” Johnson says.

Salt Lake Community College has a counseling center as well as the University of Utah, but Johnson says he has never been aware of that and doesn’t know where it is located. It is called the Center for Health and Counseling. It provides massage therapy as an option for students, which is very unique, as well and group and individual counseling.

If university counseling centers don’t work out for students there are so many other  psychiatrists around the Salt Lake Valley who are accepting new patients.

Jessica Arbogast is a family nurse practitioner who practices at the Martindale Clinic, which is located in downtown Salt Lake City on 340 E. 200 South, only five minutes from the University of Utah campus. She is willing to take new patients at this time and is very good with adolescents.

The Martindale Clinic is also a part of the Odyssey House, which helps people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. This can be another problem for college students and can increase depression and anxiety.

People who start taking an antidepressant to help with mental illness should avoid drugs and alcohol because it may mess with the medication, Arbogast says. 

She sees a large rise in the number of patients between the ages of 19-25, especially 19-21. “There are so many new stresses that come in play that people in high school did not deal with,” Arbogast says. Some of these newfound stresses include living without a parent, high stress classes, work, lack of sleep and meeting new people.

The Martindale Clinic and the Odyssey House are very affordable options for college students who can’t afford treatment or advising. They also are good options for students who attend other schools, colleges, or just live around the area and want to get help.

Mental illness is a huge problem for students, but there is no more need to hide behind it. So many people are dealing with the disorder and help can be found easily. No battle is too big to overcome.

The time to act is now.

Developing mindful awareness as a proactive approach to ending the stigma on mental illness

Story and gallery by SAVANNAH BERNARDO

As humans, each one of us is unique.

Just as our bones grow, our thoughts grow. Just as our bones develop muscles, our thoughts develop emotions. And just as our bones and muscles have developed the structure that our body is today, our thoughts and emotions have developed the structure that our mind is today.

We all have a different design that makes up how we see ourselves and how other people see us. But this is only half of what makes us unique.

The distinct way that each mind reacts and responds to different circumstances is what makes each human an individual. Each thought and emotion created is a response to a variety of different circumstances that we experience. However, the difference is how each mind will react.

Our perceptions and reactions to other people’s emotions is the reason for the stigma surrounding mental illness. Because we are unique, we all have a different story comprised of thoughts and emotions. But how often are we mindful of the details in this story? Once they come into awareness, we as a society become mindful. And only when we are mindful will we be able to stop reacting — and start being proactive.


Stigma occurs when we are unsure of how to react. Instead of trying to empathize, our lack of understanding causes a shameful judgement. This is stigma. And its mark of disgrace is left on those diagnosed with a mental illness. For many generations, stereotypes and misconceptions have caused stigmatization against people who have been diagnosed. But if we are all humans with these unique minds, why is our first reaction to judge what we don’t understand?

Mayumi Shill, 22, programs coordinator at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), describes this as a “zoomed out view.” While zoomed out, many people diagnosed with a mental illness are blamed for their disorder. There is a common curiosity as to why someone cannot just choose to be happy. This concern implies that they must be doing something wrong, and that there is a simple fix to the problem.

Just be happy.

If only life were that simple. However, simplicity does not always amount to happiness. Along with finding happiness comes facing adversity.

Andrew Smith, 35, a psychologist at the University of Utah Hospital, said, “Many people will experience some kind of mental difficulty in their life span.” But this is normal. This is what makes us human. “We’re all in this human experience together,” he said, and it’s important that we “help normalize that experience, together.”


That human experience is our story. Shill, with NAMI, said, “Everyone has a story, everyone has a different journey, and just because you don’t struggle with a mental illness, doesn’t mean that the person next to you isn’t.”

So let’s zoom in. If we take a moment to listen to the details, we will be able to hear the real story. And most importantly — accept it.

Samantha Shaw, 20, a junior at the U, said sharing her story was the best decision she ever made. Shaw was diagnosed with depression during her sophomore year of high school, but still had the thought, “This can’t be real. I can just choose to be happy.”

Even her boyfriend at the time advised her to smile more and be grateful she didn’t have something more serious like cancer.

Shaw said she felt like she had become trapped inside of her mental illness. “I felt very defined by it,” she said.

But little did she know, this was just part of her human experience.

After high school, she found her outlet in creativity and consistently wrote down her thoughts and emotions through poetry and short stories.

Her mindful awareness allowed her to accept her emotional state, rather than react to it. She was being proactive. This acceptance led her to talk about her mental illness more openly and no longer be defined by it.


The Counseling Center at the U, supports this proactive approach. Staff are actively educating students through presentations on campus about their services. Lauren Weitzman, director of the University Counseling Center, said their underlying goal is to normalize everybody’s mental health.

It also provides an important service called the Mindfulness Center. Free workshops are held on the third floor of the student services building. Students may drop in for meditation to learn mindfulness strategies to help manage stress and anxiety and check in with their overall mental health. “Everybody can benefit from it, and it can help everyone’s well-being,” Weitzman said.

And while being on campus is convenient for students, the Counseling Center also refers people to a variety of additional resources around the Wasatch Front, including NAMI.

NAMI is a national nonprofit advocacy organization that provides help and hope in relation to mental illness. It has a range of peer taught support, education and school programs that are available to the public.

Along with these programs, it offers everybody the chance to stand together and pledge to be stigma free.

By taking this pledge we are joining together as a society.

We are recognizing that we are all humans with a unique story. But as Andrew Smith, the psychologist at the University Hospital, said, we are in that human experience together. And as we bring awareness and acceptance into our mentality, we are practicing mindfulness. Only when we are mindful, Smith said, will we be able to “do a better job at supporting each other.”