Shatia Stephens Coordinates Efforts to Awaken Students On The Importance of Mental Health

Tulsa Community College received a $370,00 grant last fall, “Empowering a Community through Mental Health Awareness Training,” from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

It expands TCC’s ability to develope mental health resources and other awareness campaigns. The goal is to increase the number of staff and even students, who are trained in the skills necessary to help students who are experiencing mental health problems or crisis.

TCC is excelling in helping students succeed by providing wellness resources for mental health. Although depression, anxiety, stress and a plethora of culprits of mental health are not the only obstacles student face. Apprehension toward discussing, normalizing, and addressing mental health keeps students in the dark concerning resources TCC offers to enrich overall wellness to propel them into success.

The Wellness Service, located at the Northeast campus, has welcomed Shatia Stephens on staff as TCC’s mental health outreach coordinator. She is a vision carrier, well adverse in mental health, whose spark for psychology started during her undergraduate studies. It continued as she finished her master’s degree and joined staff at TCC.

“My major was in Psychology, so I have always been familiar with the effects of mental health, but never understood the reach it could have on the full-spectrum of your life. It can affect your relationships, and your everyday life in general,” Stephens said.

Not only did field experience grow but so did her respect for psychology and the prowess of mental health. Understanding the consequences of mental health was an eye opener. 

“Seeing the issues people were facing and how it affected their lives negatively when they did not address those issues, is when I felt like this was really a big deal, it deserved a lot of respect,” Stephens said.

Of the various mental health challenges students wrestle with daily, anxiety soars far ahead of them. It is easy to bypass and easy to dismiss.

According to Stephens, left unchecked, mental health can be disastrous. Addressing these issues and connecting the student body is the key component of getting students to pay attention.

“A lot of things I see student struggle with is anxiety, just feeling like you have this overabundance of pressure, like you want to be successful and you want to do all these things and people have these expectations for you,” Stephens said. Students face unmatched pressure to wellness through media and the cultural clashes being pumped out constantly.

Mental health begins with a culture change. Understanding the realities and methods to help the community through identifying and training staff and students, is a big step. “Sometimes you can meet those standards and sometimes you can’t. Just trying to be the best you can be in this environment causes a lot of pressure.

School plus anything personal is a big deal for most students.” And those big deals can be managed by knowing how to deal with the pressures. Stephens longs to normalize the issues that student face. Being nervous for a test is normal, everyone experiences it.

 “My thing is trying to brand it, to where it is attractive to students, and to cause it to make sense to them. Telling students “hey, I am the plug and I have resources, that may be more approachable for students just because that is a lingo that they use,” Stephens said. Educating is the priority that proves to be challenging. Stephens believes in the current effectiveness and future potential of the Wellness Center.

Stephens vision include s rebranding The Wellness Center and programs they offer. Characterized by the entrepreneurial spirit and emotional intelligence, millennials have a different lingo than previous generations on mental wellness.

Stephens specializes in case management and strives to meet basic needs students have. “Case management, my new service, provides everyday needs,” said Stephen. Things that people often leave out when it comes to mental health, because they do not see how it affects every stage of life.

Helping students meet these needs and supporting them in the process is the key component of addressing mental health concerns.

Wellness Services offers tons of events throughout the year. A few of the events include the Wellness Fair, Fresh Check Day, Distress Fest, and Relaxation Station. Just before the daunting week of finals, relief is provided through Stress Free Zones, and the beloved canines & endless cups of coffeethe student body is privileged to be served. Services also include campus screening events: HIV, STI, mental health. Wellness services have more information on the TCC website underneath the ‘Wellness’ tab.

All students interested in training and resources are encouraged to reach out to wellness services. Stephens conducts the training and can be directly contacted. She believes in equipping students to skillfully handle mental health crisis.

“First, students need to show interest. They would contact me and I take care of the training. I am open to having students in there. I think it is beneficial for students to learn. I believe millennials right now, are the biggest demographics affected by mental health conditions. You may not be a counselor or a psychologist, but you will have the skills to help someone,” this includes the individual.  “Sometimes students do not see us in here because we serve at all the campuses. So if a student wanted to make an appointment with me, I could be at any one of the campuses.”

This should not discourage any student as they can contact the crisis line immediately through text. “We have the crisis text line. A new funny version where you can get help via text. Just text the word ‘relief’ or ‘hello’ to the crisis text line 741741,” said Stephens. Students can call and get help from a crisis counselor if there is no one visibly available in the office.

Bitania Solomon

Bitania Solomon is the Editor - Northeast Campus for the TCC Connection. You can reach her via her e-mail: bitania.solomon@tulsacc.edu.