University supports mental health with new program

STAR // Brandon Stachnik

STAR // Brandon Stachnik

The second annual Mental Health awareness week at Sonoma State University is happening this week, and a new resource has been introduced to the California State University system that supports students’ mental health.

The new resource, titled ‘The Red Folder’ intends to help CSU faculty and staff notice and become more alert to the signs and symptoms of a student in distress. This year’s Mental Health Awareness week is about promoting mental health and wellness, acording to Sonoma State Psychologist and Outreach Coordinator Joe Puentes.

“We know some of the greatest barriers to academic success are stress, anxiety and depression. These programs, Mental Health Awareness Week, the Red Folder, and CAPS services are aimed to help students care for and address those issues so that they can succeed,” said Puentes.  “Students are as dynamic, creative and insightful as ever, but they also carry a great deal of stress and pressure.  For students to be at their best, for the campus to be at its best, we have got to address stress and promote mental health.” 

The Red Folder, See Something- Say Something- Do Something, is designed to assist university employees in recognizing signs and then taking cautious steps when trying to help a student suffering from a mental illness. With this new resource, faculty and staff will be prepared to help or reach out to a student experiencing symptoms of mental illness.

The Red Folder also includes a step-by-step guide of how to help students that may be of harm to themselves, whether police need to take action and intervene in the situation, as well as to refer a student to the Counseling and Psychological Services that are available.

According to Laura Williams, director of Sonoma State’s Counseling and Psychological Services, some of the services available for students are individual group and couple’s counseling, discussion groups, outreach events like Mental Health Awareness Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month Programming, workshops like training for suicide prevention, crisis/victim’s advocacy services, and consultations for concerned students regarding the mental health of friends.

The current counseling program has been in place for a couple decades and the Red Folder is another addition to the CSU’s Mental Health Initiative.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness and only 41 percent of adults with a mental health condition used or accepted mental health services in the past year.

Nearly seven percent of adults, or about 16 million people, experienced one extreme depressive episode in the last year. Eighteen percent of adults have or have experienced an anxiety disorder like post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.

“The old stigma is that to care about your mental health you must be ‘crazy’,” said Puentes. “Fortunately this perspective is shifting toward the recognition that to take care of health, both mental and physical, is wise, courageous and a lifelong investment in yourself and the world around you.”

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness week at Sonoma State, an exhibit with 1,100 hearts hung from trees in front of Salazar Hall representing 1,100 college students that have died by suicide. On the hearts there are messages of hope, support, and encouragement to show compassion for the issue.

“We’ve seen over 550 students this year in individual or group counseling,” said Williams. “We have interacted with many more through consultations, outreach programming and workshops [like] Gender Identity Discussion Group [and] Women of Color Discussion Group and training.”

The Red Folder is available in various forms, hard copy, online, and a mobile application. The Counseling and Psychological Services phone number is (707) 664-2153 and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to4:30 p.m. at 1088 Stevenson Hall. For 24 hour service call Police Services at (707) 664-4444 or Sonoma County Crisis Line at (707) 576-8181.