Counseling, community provides support for mental health

In an effort to better support the mental and emotional health of students, the Biola Counseling Center offers extensive hours for students to share their story, and to learn to first help themselves in order to in turn help others.

In+an+effort+to+better+support+the+mental+and+emotional+health+of+students%2C+the+Biola+Counseling+Center+offers+extensive+hours+for+students+to+share+their+story%2C+and+to+learn+to+first+help+themselves+in+order+to+in+turn+help+others.+%7C+Cherri+Yoon%2FTHE+CHIMES

In an effort to better support the mental and emotional health of students, the Biola Counseling Center offers extensive hours for students to share their story, and to learn to first help themselves in order to in turn help others. | Cherri Yoon/THE CHIMES

Sophia Dammann, Writer

In an effort to better support the mental and emotional health of students, the Biola Counseling Center offers extensive hours for students to share their story, and to learn to first help themselves in order to in turn help others. | Cherri Yoon/THE CHIMES

 

Students and faculty alike work to create a community at Biola that better supports the mental and emotional health of its students.

The Biola Counseling Center now offers weekly drop-in counseling hours to increase its ability to engage students on a regular basis. In addition, students use social media to spread encouragement and support for their peers by sharing their personal stories.

The BCC describes one of its goals as helping clients arrive at a rich understanding of their personal life story so that through increased self-understanding the individual becomes better equipped to navigate and cope with the challenges of daily living.

 

After having positive experiences with the BCC, freshman physics major Cameron Peck has been reaching out to other Biola students who are struggling. "Loving someone in their battle through depression or suicidal thoughts starts by showing them that they are important to you, the world and ultimately to God," said Peck. | Cherri Yoon/THE CHIMES

 

THE POWER IN SHARED EXPERIENCES

Freshman physics major Cameron Peck shares this value with the BCC and also works on his own to help his peers.

After years of battling suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, Peck began to use his story to help others.

“I didn’t realize that God was using me in that way. I was just being a friend,” Peck said. “Later, I realized that God had used my story in many more ways than I had imagined.”

Realizing the power of people’s stories led Peck to reach out to other students through a post on the “I Got Accepted to Biola 2014/15” Facebook page. After posting his message of encouragement, Peck received over 25 private message responses, three from students currently contemplating suicide.

“The stigma with suicide and depression is that no one wants to talk about it because they’re ashamed of judgment,” Peck said. “You have to see it from the perspective of ‘The faster I get help, the faster I will get over this.’ I postponed finding help, and the anxiety and depression turned into suicide.”

Peck added that loving people can help overcome such obstacles created by a lack of familiarity with the experience. "Loving someone in their battle through depression or suicidal thoughts starts by showing them that they are important to you, the world and ultimately to God," said Peck.

RECOGNIZING OUR LIMITATIONS

Dr. Melanie Taylor, director of the BCC, notes the importance of students recognizing their own limitations as non-professionals, and understanding the importance of helping themselves before they can help others.

“There are a number of students who tell their story to someone that cannot relate, who wants to ‘fix’ them, or who generally does not know how to respond. I would encourage students who hear the stories to be supportive and suggest that the student come to see us,” Taylor said.

“I believe as a Christian culture we have come a long way in understanding and being open to those who struggle emotionally,” Taylor said. “However, some students come from a tradition that believes if we are Christians we should not struggle with our emotions.”

Associate Dean of Students Matthew Hooper identifies practical ways that students can proactively support one another.

“First, listening in order to understand versus listening to respond by knowing that it’s not your job to fix them or save them. Secondly, recognizing your own emotional state of being and lovingly embracing your own limits. Thirdly, actively journeying with a friend to resources like the BCC,” Hooper said.

Recognizing the ways in which students and professionals at Biola can build off one another marks the first step in creating a more effective community.

“We have to learn to see beauty in the breakdown. There’s usually no quick fixes here,” Hooper said. “Seeing people’s hearts out in the open, while being really hard, can also be one of the most beautiful experiences in a person’s life. Embracing what’s really going on, acknowledging if, for example, you have depression, and then asking yourself, ‘Okay, how do I navigate that? What do I need to be moving towards health and wholeness?’”

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