As the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, mental health became a pervasive and expanding issue. The need to focus on students' mental health became more apparent as students all over the country faced a great deal of uncertainty, unexpected shifts to remote learning, and a diminished sense of community. For Elgin Community College student Desiree Oliveros, reaching out for help meant moving past a belief system that stigmatizes mental health therapy as unnecessary because she was probably just sad or nervous or in ‘a mood’ that would pass. “It wasn’t until the spring of 2021 that I realized I was at my breaking point. My eating habits were out of control, my mood changed drastically from day to day, and my grades were suffering,” said Oliveros. “It felt like I had no control over my life. But then one of the professionals from the wellness center came to talk to our class, and at that moment, I knew I needed to do something to improve my mental health, and I had somewhere to go for support.”
ECC’s Wellness Services Office proactively plays a critical role in enhancing students' overall health and well-being using a holistic approach. ECC began adding clinicians in 2015 and now has three licensed clinical professionals who provide a wide range of free mental health services on campus, which is rare among two-year colleges.
“Having a positive experience with a mental health provider can turn students into advocates,” noted Wellness Professional Jasmine Young. “Friends are more comfortable talking about their feelings with each other and can recognize when to say, ‘Hey, this issue goes deeper, maybe you should talk to a professional.’” Wellness professionals urge students not to wait until they have a mental health crisis to seek help. Whether a student needs one session to talk through something or multiple sessions to work on coping tools, ensuring a continuum of care is critical.
“It is not an easy journey to heal, but I am glad I finally took the steps necessary to better myself,” said Oliveros. “My grades returned to the straight A’s I knew I was capable of, my confidence returned, and I learned how to cope with my anxiety before it became a problem.”
Oliveros is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and a dual credit Accelerate College student who graduated in May of 2022 with an Associate in Science degree and high honors. She will attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the fall to study civil engineering.
Visit the Wellness Services webpage to learn more about ECC Wellness Professionals and services.