ASI hosted Taco ‘Bout It last night, where tacos were served and mental health was discussed with a panel of experts. 

The panel consisted of Dr. Daniel Berkow, Director of Psychological Counseling, Jennifer Staffero, Counselor in Psychological Services, Susan Brumm, Counselor in Psychological Services, Lee Bettencourt, Counselor in Psychological Services and Michelle Nungaray, ASI Vice President. 

The evening revolved primarily around Psychological Counseling Services (PCS), which is a program offered to treat mental health issues on campus. Then Dr. Berkow began by briefly explaining why students go to PCS. 

“We see students for a real variety of different concerns, the feedback we get tells us that anxiety is a real big reason students come to counseling. Students get depressed, get down, get unhappy, lose energy to show up to class. We deal with students who experience violence, assault, or trauma. Students have an overload of stress: financial, family, relationship problems,” said Dr. Berkow.

Brumm continued with an emphasis on identity problems, particularly with first generation students. 

“We see a lot of students with identity issues, with self-esteem, confidence. We see a lot of first generation students and a lot of the time they question whether or not they really belong here, or whether or not they can do this. They are figuring out who they are,” said Brumm. 

The conversation then shifted towards the stigma of mental health and how it makes it difficult for some students to seek counseling. 

“In terms of stigma, I think of external factors and internal factors. There is a sense you have to be self-sufficient and stick to myself and if I show up to counseling, somehow that is showing weakness. If I talk about suicidal ideation, they’re going to send me to the hospital, which isn’t the case. We talk about it and want to keep people safe but it is very common for students to these kind of thoughts and it’s these factors that prevent people from coming,” said Bettencourt.

Family and friends also play a huge role in the stigmatization of mental health and seeking help. 

“Families play a role in stigma, I've heard students say, ‘it’s not okay with my family for me to come to counseling.' There is misunderstanding of what counseling is, when students learn what counseling provides, they are more open to coming in and talking about things with us,” said Dr. Berkow.

The stigma that counseling is just for students that are ill was also debunked. 

“The stigma is more like, ‘well there’s something wrong with me so I have to go to counseling’ when that is definitely not the case. Counseling is a place where you can go and grow as a person,” said Staffero. 

Benefits to seeing a counselor were discussed as well.

“The benefit of talking to someone you don’t know is that they are not a part of your life, so it will not bite you in the butt. Sometimes if you talk to a friend or a family member it can come back to you unexpectedly, but with us it’s confidential,” said Brumm. 

Any student that goes to counseling and does not have a good experience can always switch counselors. Brumm and Staffero stressed that their main focus is to help the students and make them as comfortable as possible. 

According to Dr. Berkow, counselors see, on average, 5 students a day. They also have counselor’s ready for any type of emergency counseling so if any student ever has a crisis situation, they can be attended to immediately. Emergencies are assessed on a standardized questionnaire the student briefly fills out but the front desk staff is also trained to identify emergency situations. 

ASI’s Michelle Nungaray (senior, Criminal Justice) expressed her concerns with the location of PCS.

“One of the issues is that PCS is not in the library anymore so many students are afraid to go to PCS because they are afraid that other students are going to see them walk to PCS because it is more out there and in the library it is more hidden,” said Nungaray.  

Gloria Vallin (senior, Communication Studies, Psychology) is the Director of Diversity for ASI and she explained the purpose for this event. 

“Essentially we put on this event because, due to the elections, we had different categories and mental health awareness was actually number one. Students asked us for it and we had the opportunity to put on events so they can ask questions to professional counselors,” said Vallin.  

She also feels that the event was very successful. 

“Taco 'Bout It series tonight went really well, we advertised about it as much as we could and we are happy to have students from different backgrounds come in,” said Vallin. 

Carlos Martinez (junior, Political Science) attended the event and left very content. 

“I thought it was really informative. It really helps when people discuss the stigma of mental health and how we should not listen to that stigma,” said Martinez.  

Another student who thoroughly enjoyed the event was Jada Adams (junior, Communication Studies), “I liked it, I felt like it was very informational for students. If people are going through this, this is a really good event to learn about the program and just find out more information about it. If you really are going through problems you don’t want to discuss with anybody else, definitely go. They seem like they care and are compassionate about it.” 

ASI will be hosting another Taco 'Bout It event on Tuesday, November 5th in MSR 130 from 5-7 PM.

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