Specialists talk mental health, social connections in KSDB Roundtable discussion

The 'On Air' light shines red while the show 'Stanton and Broz' plays on inside Studio D at the 91.9 KSDB The Wildcat studios on the third floor of McCain Hall on December 1, 2015. (Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

On Wednesday, Kodee Walls, psychologist from Kansas State Counseling Services, Karen Smothers, assistant clinical director from Pawnee Mental Health Services, and Maj. Gordon Lyons from Fort Riley discussed what each mental health care provider offers with Lucas Peterson, junior in political science, in the latest KSDB Roundtable.

Walls, who is a coordinator for the stress management program at K-State Counseling Services, said a good way to get over the pesky “winter blues” is to find someone you can work out with and vent to.

“When you are feeling down, it is difficult to find motivation,” she said.

Lyons said outside of getting someone to vent to, the suggested workout buddy would “nurture” social interaction “which is vital for social health.”

“Cardiovascular exercise three times a week for thirty minutes coupled with high water intake is best way to treat these winter blues,” Lyons said.

Another central topic to the conversation was the stigma surrounding the topic of mental health.

Walls said while she feels the stigma around the discussion of mental health issues has decreased and students no longer struggle to be open about their issues, she also said she believes “the level of severity of college students’ mental health needs have increased.”

All three mental heath specialists said they agree that finding someone who can empathize with you struggles is one of the best ways to cope with pain in what Lyons called the “all-in-the-same boat phenomenon.”

Smothers said mental health affects how people think, feel and act. It is a determinant in how well we handle stress, make choices and relate to others. For many who struggle with mental health, the first step is wanting to get well — just like seeking health when one suffers from physical sickness.

“It is agonizing to see a family member suffer when they are not mentally ready to make change,” Smothers said. “There are stages of change, and the first stage is motivating individuals that struggle with mental health issues to want to change; it is the first underlying challenge to be overcome.”

Smothers said a really important aspect of mental health to focus on is that there is nothing to be ashamed of regarding an illness.

“We can all do a better job of reaching out to those experiencing pain before it becomes intolerable,” Smothers said.

For more information about mental wellness opportunities at K-State, check out the Counseling Services website.