The Student Mental Health and Wellness program comprised of two Student Wellness Advocates and a Case Management Coordinator who work to ensure that students have people to turn to when times are tough.
They operate under the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the Dean of Students within the Student Development Department for mental health needs.
“We started this program in Fall 2019,” Jessica Contreras, Student Wellness Advocate, said. “It has helped to solidify mental health services and requirements.”
Each member of the program is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC). This qualification makes it possible for them to provide therapy services independently.
The team provides support to students as they face challenges related to being a student as well as coping with everyday life stressors. Overall, they love that they can come together to engage with the student body at JJC and create a safe place to express their needs.
“It is most important that we are easily accessible and can step in to support the students,” Contreras said.
The team’s certifications make the process run a lot smoother, and students know they can trust them.
“Since we are licensed, we are trained to assess students, when it comes to certain mental health symptoms and provide support as needed,” Ausra Tauginaite, a Student Wellness Advocate who also offers counseling services, said.
Tauginaite says that their department sees all kinds of symptoms in students. Ones that range from low to mild to very severe.
“Every student is unique and needs different kinds of support. As clinicians we can practice independently and make those decisions,” Tauginaite said. “Our first priority is always safety.”
Each student is allowed 10 free sessions per academic year before they are referred elsewhere if needed. If it is decided that the student’s symptoms are severe, they will be connected with an off-campus service. For those who show milder symptoms, those 10 free sessions may be enough.
The sessions can be broken up throughout an academic year, so some may choose to attend a few in the fall and attend some more in the spring or summer.
Topics students talk about range from academics to relationships and everything in between.
Students come from many walks of life, as the student body of JJC is very diverse. When they are able to talk to someone who is unbiased and they feel validated, they may feel better.
“We want our students to know that we are here for them,” says Tauginaite.
Providing support and mental health services for students is far from being a one-person job.
“My role is to advocate for students while providing mental health support,” Heidi Stukel, Case Management Coordinator, said.
Stukel works side-by-side with students so they can achieve their goals. Together, they discuss what the student’s needs are and Stukel works to connect them with all available resources on and off campus. She wants them to be emotionally well and successful while in pursuit of their education.
In order for students to achieve that success both in and outside of the classroom, the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) works to make specific plans for students in crisis to help work through them and get the students the best care possible, keeping safety top of mind.
The team shares a common goal of helping students while also uplifting each other. Their involvement allows them to provide support to faculty members to ensure that they know how they can help their students.
In the classroom, teachers want to feel comfortable managing their students and know how to connect them with the Student Wellness Program.
Many new resources have been made available to serve as another layer of support, two of which being a newsletter and corresponding podcast. These surfaced post-COVID as a way to reach the students virtually while also maintaining confidentiality and convenience. Additionally, they launched their social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram and can be found under the tag: @MentalhealthJJC.
“The newsletter goes to show students who we are, as counselors and as individuals and it helps us to build relationships with them,” says Contreras.
Despite the challenges that remote learning has posed to both students and faculty, the Student Wellness Program will accommodate and educate students and faculty with workshops on various topics, like addiction or holiday stress.
In addition, students can now request appointments online, which can be less daunting for those who may be skeptical about speaking to someone and stepping outside of their comfort zone. From there, they will work with the Administrative Assistant, Kellie Nahas, to set up their appointment.
It is important that students know they are NEVER alone with such a great department full of warm and welcoming professionals available for support.
During this ongoing pandemic, services are provided via phone or via video on a confidential platform.
Students can schedule an appointment by phone: Call Kellie at 815-280-2936: Leave a message with your full name, student ID number, and best number to reach you at.
Students can also request an appointment online: Visit https://jjc.titaniumhwc.com/ and complete “New Client – Request for Video/Phone Session.”