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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Mapping out mental health at UNI

Student Health and Well-Being Coordinator Kaili Benham showcases UNI Student Wellness Services and its various programs available to UNI students

Everyone has mental health. In the same way we all have physical health, we all have mental health. The CDC defines mental health as a state of psychological, emotional, and social well-being. What is well-being? Oxford Dictionary defines well-being as being comfortable, healthy, and happy. So, are you comfortable with your ability to concentrate, make decisions, and process information? Are you comfortable with the emotions you feel and with your social connections? Do you have healthy thought processes or use good judgment, express your feelings in a healthy manner, and have healthy boundaries and relationships with those in your social network? Do you have happy and kind thoughts towards yourself? Do you feel joy? Do your social connections bring you fulfillment and make you happy? These are big questions with no simple answers and answers that likely change from day to day. 

While the mental health definition includes three dimensions of well-being, it is important to understand that there are eight dimensions that can all impact and interact with one another (intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational and physical). Suppose someone doesn’t get the nutrients and sleep needed for physical wellness. In that case, it will likely impact their ability to focus (psychological/intellectual) and maybe make them irritable (emotional), which may cause friction in their friendships (social). Negative stress can impact our mental health. Whether due to financial concerns like bills or debt, environmental stress due to poor living conditions, or occupational stress due to time-management issues, prolonged stress in these areas can negatively affect our mental health. 

There is a saying, “it’s okay to not be okay,” that has helped reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. What it tries to promote is that it’s okay to talk about not being okay and to seek help. However, no one wants to stay that way. Therefore, it is essential for all of us to understand what resources are available and how those resources can help us maintain our mental health and well-being. 

UNI Student Wellness Services have opportunities to try and help students find balance in the eight dimensions of wellness and to help support their mental health. Multiple programs can teach students skills that can better their mental health. Such as Coping with Stress, Exploring Relaxation, Gratitude & Self-Compassion, and Sleep to Be Your Best. These can be requested through the Program Request section of the website at 

Wellness Coaching is a great way to explore one’s well-being and character strengths and apply them to wellness goals. Through the process of wellness coaching, students may increase self-awareness and self-efficacy, achieve goals and have an increased sense of life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning. Wellness coaches are knowledgeable about the many resources available on campus that can help students in these eight dimensions of wellness. 

UNI Recreation Services plays an important role in students recreation, fitness, and leisure goals. Movement and involvement can improve one’s mental health, so Recreation Services and the Wellness and Recreation Center are a great place to do both. Take advantage of many programs they offer like group fitness, aquatics, intramural sports, outdoor recreation and equipment rentals, personal training, and sports clubs.  

Let’s Talk is a peer-to-peer support program, which provides free, brief consultations.  Consults are drop-in and first come, first serve at the Student Health Center, Monday-Friday 8:00-4:00 and in the CME, Wednesday & Thursday 9:00-4:00, during academic semesters while classes are in session. 

Let’s Talk is great for students who:

  • Are trying to find resources on campus but don’t know where to start
  • Have a concern about a friend or family member and would like ideas about what to do
  • Are unsure about counseling or wonder what it’s like to talk to a counselor.
  • Have a specific problem and would like someone with whom to talk it through.

The new and free TELUS app is available to UNI students to download and use for 24/7 confidential help. TELUS provides Open Call and Open Chat support, peer-to-peer support through Social Connection, real-time early intervention services, and clinical support through tele-counseling. The app also offers many resources that may be helpful in times of need.

The UNI Counseling Center provides confidential therapy services both in-person and through tele-therapy. Students can initiate services by calling 319-273-2676 and scheduling an initial appointment. Your first session is a solution-focused interaction focused on your current pressing situational stressor or mental health related concern. During this session you will collaborate with the clinician to develop insight, options, and possible solutions to your current pressing concern. This collaboration may involve psychoeducation, therapeutic strategies, skill-developing tools, and recommended resources for further and continued support. All enrolled students are eligible for five free counseling sessions per academic year. If additional services are needed, a clinician can help.

You matter at UNI. Student Health and Wellness offers all these resource and program options to students because we want you to proactively care for your mental health and well-being, but also have access when help is most needed. If you are in a crisis or need immediate support please do not hesitate to call or text 988 National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or 911 for immediate safety concerns.

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