Leave all your problems at the door

New mental health support groups on campus help students cope with college life


Joshua Roy

Anita Kraft answers questions posed by freshmen Holly Britton and Larissa Dalton about the autism group meeting. Kraft set up a table in the hallway at noon during the first week of classes to raise awareness for her new group.

Joshua Roy, Staff Reporter

On the second floor of University Center South a small group of offices can be found. These few doors are a safe space for many IUS students — they are the offices of the IU Southeast Personal Counseling Service.

IU Southeast’s Personal Counseling Services are located on the second floor of UC South. It is available to all students, whether they commute or live on campus.

Dr. Michael Day, director of Personal Counseling services, has seen significant improvement in the awareness of his office’s services on campus, however he believes too many students still are not aware.

“It has increased a great deal over the past ten years, but I still hear very frequently that students don’t know. I think part of that is the commuter nature of our school and we’re not in the most highly trafficked part of campus,” Day said.

The program offers many different resources for students. The counselors offer singles, couples and group therapy. They can help with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder — whether they are self-diagnosed or determined by a medical professional.

Dr. Day is always on-call to aid any students who are suffering from suicidal thoughts. They can contact the IU Southeast Police Department at any time to get in touch with Day.

While personal counseling is led by Day, he oversees a staff of doctoral-level graduate students from IUS and around the area. Recently, more graduate students have become involved in the program and have started support groups for different students on campus.

Autism Support Group

Graduate student Anita Kraft sits at her table outside the "O"
Graduate student Anita Kraft sits at her table outside the “O”

Anita Kraft, a master’s student in mental health counselling, has begun leading a new group for autistic students on campus.

When her son started college, Kraft noticed the programs he had in high school for coping with being on the autism spectrum did not continue to college-level academics. Soon after learning there was nothing to help her son, she decided to start something herself.

Kraft brainstormed many ways to start a program on campus, including starting a student organization. Eventually, she said she decided to partner with the resources of the Personal Counseling Center.

“The need right now really is that initial… group support to pull students together,’ Kraft said.

Her goal is to work with college students on the autism spectrum to help them cope with some of the struggles they might have at IUS. She wants the program to catch on this semester and be a recurring program at IUS in the future.

Each week, the group will cover a different topic to help them with various issues students on the spectrum may have. There are plans to cover specific issues such as when and how to tell people about being autistic as well as weeks for students to ask questions about issues they may be facing.

“One week we’ll be talking about how to interact with professors… and we’re actually going to have some professors come in and talk,” Kraft said.

The autism support group meets every Tuesday at noon in UC North 126. Students who have not been diagnosed by a doctor but believe they are on the spectrum are welcome to participate. Since the group is associated with the personal counselling program, all information shared by students in the group is confidential.

“I just see autism as being something different. I always describe it as Mac in a PC world,” Kraft said. ”You come in and you got a Macintosh brain and everyone else is working with a Microsoft brain and you got to figure out how to connect with them.”

“Neither one’s good or bad, they’re just different,” Kraft said.

Anxiety Support Group

Two other students in the masters of mental health counseling program are also starting a group at IU Southeast. Pauletta Stewart and Claire Faith’s focus is on students battling stress and anxiety.

“As students we know anxiety and stress is real, especially when you are trying to balance college and life,” Stewart said.

They are trying to use theory-based activities that help students recognize what brings on their anxieties, how it affects them and how to use coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety in a healthy way.

One exercise they plan on using this semester is called “chicken or the egg.” They ask students to figure out whether their stress is caused by certain situations or their stress escalates situations.

“It will be a balance between learning actual skills that they can take with them outside of the group and a place to vent and destress,” Faith said.

The anxiety group meets every Wednesday around 4 p.m. in UC North 126. The group is also under the Personal counselling program and all information shared by students in the group is confidential.

Any student is welcome to come to any of the sessions. There is no requirement to how many or how few students participate. If someone has had a stressful week and needs a safe space to vent, they are welcome.

Campus Food Pantry

There is also a food pantry located on campus for students in need of food. If they do not have time to contact the personal counseling office to set up an appointment to pick out food from the pantry, they can grab a pre-made box of assorted goods from the police station.

If a student has other needs, the personal counseling service can help the student find someone to take care of them.

“We also offer what we call care management services… for people who are struggling meeting some of their daily needs,” Day said. “If they have a short-term problem like a broken down car… we can try to help them find some help in the community.”

Counseling services also sponsor presentations on different topics of mental health and wellness. This semester, their series focuses on different aspects of social media and how to have a healthy relationship with it.

In recent years, Dr. Day has asked practicum students from other schools in the area to help keep up with demand for the program. The extra help has allowed the IU Southeast branch to keep its wait times down to about a week.

“It has exploded nationwide and every campus seems to be struggling to keep up… We keep growing every year and we’ve only been able to keep up so far by using practicum students,” Day said.

Personal Counseling is located in University Center South, Room 243. Those interested can call (812) 941-2244 or email Michael Day at micaday@ius.edu. The service’s office hours are Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.