Person holding a sad face sign

Students coping with stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are turning to the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC) for help. According to CSDC psychologists, students seeking counseling services are dealing with a variety of crises such as homelessness, financial strain, adjustment to online learning, disrupted plans, and barriers to travel/return to their home countries. The center announced an expansion of free virtual mental health services, which include drop-in support spaces and group therapy.

“The new services are meant to offer students opportunities to connect with mental health resources and each other but without the pressure of ‘going to therapy’ or stigma that might prevent asking for help when needed,” said CSDC Psychologist Alexander Khaddouma. “Since many of our students are living outside of Hawaiʻi during the pandemic, these services provide opportunities for students who might be seeking mental health resources from the university, but not currently eligible for counseling services at CSDC due to the licensing laws of our providers.”

Starting November 16, students currently enrolled at UH Mānoa can register online to attend virtual drop-in support spaces, one-hour group sessions that provide a place for students of various identities (such as student-athletes, on-campus residents, international students, LGBTQ+ students) to share experiences about specific concerns. Students currently residing within or outside of the state of Hawaiʻi are eligible to participate in drop-in support spaces.

Starting November 9, group therapy will also be available and focus on a variety of issues such as coping with ADHD, dealing with anxiety related to the pandemic and developing healthy relationships. Interested students should call (808) 956-7927 to complete a brief telephone screening appointment to ensure group therapy is appropriate for them. Both services will be hosted on Zoom by a CSDC counselor.

Distancing contributes to COVID-19 induced stress

Experts find anxiety levels can be exacerbated during the pandemic because there are fewer opportunities to connect with peers or engage in activities to cope.

“While there are many effective strategies and techniques for coping with anxiety, it is important to focus on strategies that work for each person uniquely. This might mean learning more about yourself and the things that bring you stress, as well as what works and what doesn’t for coping during difficult times,” Khaddouma said. “If you notice that your level of stress or anxiety is interfering with your ability to accomplish your goals or feel happy, it is highly recommended to seek help from a mental health professional. Like most medical concerns, it is helpful to address mental health concerns early-on and with the help of a qualified professional to prevent them from worsening.”

In September, CSDC offered weekly interactive, educational self-help workshops focused on maintaining mental and physical wellness in an effort to reach students more effectively during the pandemic. During the summer months, similar workshops were also made available as students prepared for the fall semester.

CSDC has adjusted services for students and is set up for urgent individual walk-in appointments (with adjustments to accommodate physical distancing), brief solution-focused counseling via tele-mental health, and telephone consultations. CSDC requests that students call to set up an appointment or call before attending a walk-in appointment. Staff will help arrange appropriate services.

Faculty and staff can contact the UH Employee Assistance Program for counseling services at Worklife Hawaiʻi.

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