UREC hosted a mental health Q&A, where members of the panel took questions on taking care of mental wellbeing, resources available at JMU  including JMU's Counseling Center — and how to help others in need of assistance.

The University Recreation Center (UREC) hosted a Q&A panel Nov. 9 to discuss mental health, featuring three voices from across JMU to share their insight. Kevin Kustral, a junior at JMU who’s involved in mental health awareness; Matthew Hunsberger, the coordinator for mental health in the Dean’s Office; and Magali Laitem, a licensed clinical psychologist who works at JMU’s Counseling Center, took questions on taking care of mental wellbeing, resources available at JMU and how to help others in need of assistance. 

A common theme throughout the panel was how stress and anxiety affects college students and how to deal with it. 

The first question asked was what the difference is between everyday stress and chronic stress.

“Everyday stress in the short term is a good thing,” Kustral said. “It can actually help your mental health and physical health. Chronic stress is going to negatively impact mental health.” 

Laitem said once stress starts impacting students’ physical well-being, they need to reach out to different resources to prevent it from becoming chronic stress or anxiety.

Another big issue discussed at the panel was the importance of students taking care of themselves while being away from home and making sure their academic performance stays in good shape. 

Hunsberger said it’s important for students to check on their mental health and how it relates to their academics, and if students find themselves falling behind, they shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and seek help. 

Laitem urged students to make use of the many free resources JMU has to offer for mental health services, especially the new partnership with TimelyCare, she said.

“JMU is paying for every student to have access to great mental wellness resources for free,” Laitem said. 

Laitem said the Counseling Center on campus also offers free counseling services, therapy dogs and community resources to help others who may be in distress. She also said the Counseling Center is looking into adopting therapy cats in the future to give students an option between the two.

The last question and topic revolved around how to help a friend who’s dealing with signs of stress and anxiety and some tips to help them. 

“Last semester, there were three suicides,” Kustral said, “which caused a really sad time on campus. If you pick up on signs of stress — be there for them, go to them and make sure they know you have an outlet.”

While Kustral focused on a JMU-wide answer to this question, Hunsberger took a different approach to answering this question. Hunsberger warned that when taking care of other people, it’s still important that students also keep their own personal limits and well-being in mind.

“One of the easiest mistakes you can make is to get sucked in and try to solve their problems,” Hunsberger said. “Sometimes people just need someone to talk to and have a conversation. Be careful to not go too far and go beyond your own abilities.”

Contact Luke Wirth at wirthlw@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.