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Universities are ready to help Arkansas students with mental health

While the pandemic has been tough on students, experts say it has also opened the door to more mental health discussions on new platforms.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As college students return to class in person or online, they often face unique challenges. In this week's "Mind Matters," we take a look at how Arkansas universities are helping students navigate mental health.

According to Aresh Assadi, a licensed professional counselor and assistant director of the Counseling Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, most mental health issues first onset between the ages of 14 to 24.

"We're big believers in early detection and early treatment of these issues because mental health issues have a weird way of getting worse when they're left untreated," Assadi said.

UA Little Rock has many first-generation college students and "non-traditional" students that face their own set of challenges. Assadi said it is extremely important to meet students where they are.

"We do a lot of one on one counseling," he said. "We do a lot of mental health literacy stuff, where we go to different stakeholders. Through our UALR Wellness Instagram, we have all kinds of little tips and tricks on things that you can do to remain mentally and physically healthy."

While the pandemic has been tough on students, Assadi said it has also opened the door to more mental health discussions on new platforms.

"I believe, over 80% [of our clients] say that they want to continue the offerings of the telehealth services," he said. "So that's actually been a big hit. I think it helps with stigma."

Assadi and other experts agree that it also helps as we continue through the grief, isolation, and uncertainty that come with living in a pandemic.

"There's a lot of things we may not be able to do that we used to, but there's still a lot we can do," Dr. Susan Sobel, director of the Counseling Center at the University of Central Arkansas, said. "You can either get frustrated and give up, or you can decide 'I'm going to find a way to make these circumstances that I can't change work.'"

Sobel said UCA will hold programs specifically addressing the changes and stressors that come with the pandemic, and she offered advice for dealing with it.

"Stress is normal," she said. "To feel anxious to some degree about this stuff is perfectly normal. It helps if you acknowledge that in some way. One of the things we've learned over the years is that it's not good to keep it inside and think you're the only person going through this because you're not."

Click here for a guide from The National Alliance on Mental Illness on how to manage a mental health condition in college.

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