Help when we feel helpless

Friday, Feb. 16, 2024

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

Every year on the occasion of Mental Well-Being Awareness Week, I am reminded of my early college days, when, at times, I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel of anxiety. I vividly remember my struggles with episodes of depression. I also remember that, magically, there would be light! Once the cloud was lifted, I would ask myself, “What was I worried about so much?” After a couple of cycles of darkness and light, I remember noticing that my thoughts were never final, and that I shouldn’t always believe everything that I think! In fact, I realized that I could not hold onto my sad thoughts, even if I tried. THEY DID ULTIMATELY GO AWAY! In the process, I gained the courage to seek help when I sensed the onset of potentially crippling thoughts. I learned then, even decades ago when I was a student, that my alma mater, LSU, had tools to help me identify when worrying was turning into a debilitating disorder. I realized that the mental health counselors were there for me and did not judge me. I became comfortable seeking help; that was my turning point.

We all know intuitively that seeking help during times of depression, anxiety or even emotional stress is the best thing we can do. Why are certain problems identified and addressed without hesitation while others come with stigma? Consider acute injuries compared to chronic pain. When we break a bone, we seek care and receive sympathy. Casts become temporary badges of honor, signifying a path to recovery that is visually evident and socially recognized. Chronic pain, however, is often invisible and sometimes questioned, leading many to endure in silence. The invisible nature of many medical conditions, such as anxiety and depression, is met with a response that reflects the complexities of how we perceive and manage our well-being.

To our students, I say, please know that you are not alone. You are not alone in feeling anxious, depressed or worried, and you are not alone when you feel anxious, depressed or worried. Just as you won’t hesitate to seek help when in pain physically, you should seek help when distressed emotionally. Further, I ask that you encourage your friends to seek help if you sense that they might be worried excessively. Thanks to our professional counselors and wellness staff, you have at your disposal an array of support services that include individual counseling, group counseling, wellness consultations, training, presentations, and a student group that promotes health and well-being on campus. I encourage you not to delay seeking help when you feel overwhelmed, anxious or helpless.

Further, I encourage you to establish and enhance your social connections, increase your sense of belonging on campus, and invite your friends to participate. An article, “College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A National Perspective,” unsurprisingly reveals that belonging predicts better persistence, engagement and mental health. Here at S&T, we have a dedicated group focused on providing a welcoming community for our students. In addition, our Student Success Center, in our new Innovation Lab, offers free coffee, success coaching and tutoring.

To our faculty and staff, I say, thank you for contributing to our student well-being efforts. And, as the Chronicle’s article, “They Need Us to Be Well,” highlights, we, as faculty and staff, must also take care of ourselves. Clearly, we are not immune from occasional mental distress, and I encourage you to explore our Employee Assistance Program services for faculty and staff.

In the end, I know this: no matter how deep and down we feel today, our thoughts will be different tomorrow, the next day or the next week. During any journey, we will feel elated or dejected just as we will feel encouraged or discouraged. We will have successes and setbacks, acceptance and resistance, and wins and losses. The truth is that there is no person or place immune to the ups and downs of life and, regardless of our feelings in the moment, we will do ourselves a great service if we realize that our feelings are transient, and that we must muster the courage to seek help if we are to triumph over our moments of despair.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
Chancellor | 573-341-4116

206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910