Sometimes students don't feel comfortable going to the IU Health Center to talk about missing home, roommate problems or test anxiety.
These concerns often come up in Let’s Talk Now, an informal psychological counseling service which is put on in places students already frequent.
The program, organized by Counseling and Psychological Services, is expanding from culture centers and academic centers to residence halls, with new sessions offered in Eigenmann Hall this semester.
“We really encourage them to consider mental health care as something additive and positive,” said Jacks Cheng, Let’s Talk Now consultant at Eigenmann Hall. “It’s about growth, not about deficit.”
While counseling services at the IU Health Center require appointments with licensed professionals, Let's Talk Now offers drop-in sessions with doctoral students from the counseling psychology department.
“We know what it’s like to be in the classroom,” Cheng said.
Beginning in fall 2016, the program's consultants have been available for set times at the Asian Culture Center, Groups Scholars, Hudson & Holland Scholars Program, La Casa Latino Cultural Center, LGBTQ+ Culture Center and Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. The Eigenmann Hall office is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-2 p.m.
Jessica David, a Let’s Talk Now consultant for the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, said many students she sees there typically engage in NMBCC extracurricular programs and are comfortable in the space.
“It normalizes the process of mental counseling,” David said.
Cheng said he suggested the program expand to a residence hall to increase access to students who don’t identify with a culture center or academic program.
“It's a way to say that CAPS cares about people who live in dorms,” Cheng said.
Let’s Talk Now is located in the OASIS office at 7 West in Eigenmann’s wing of administrative offices. Muhammad Abdul Malik Saahir, coordinator of Let's Talk Now, said the residence hall is a strategic location because of its proximity to other dormitories and Student Central.
Saahir said students can easily become distressed by registering for classes and checking their grades and finances at Student Central. Now, students can walk one block from their meetings there to the Let's Talk Now office.
“That can just change the game,” Saahir said.
Unlike formal counseling appointments at the health center, Let’s Talk Now does not require any background information from the student. Students don’t even have to share their names.
“Just come in and start talking,” Saahir said. “It’s very low barrier.”
Cheng said the Eigenmann location poses a challenge because students might be self-conscious of their peers seeing them enter the Let’s Talk Now office.
Many people think something has to be wrong with them to use mental health services, Cheng said, which is not the case.
“We’re not here to judge them,” Cheng said. “We’re not here to tell them that they’re wrong, or that they should figure it out. We’re here to help them figure it out, on their own accord, on their own terms.”
In addition to talking about whatever is bothering the student, the consultants refer students to further services that would best suit their needs.
While consultants may suggest formal counseling for issues such as anxiety and depression, sometimes appointments with academic advisors or career coaches are more suitable.
Counselors may also suggest the program's counterpart, Let’s Keep Talking, which is a way for students to engage in formal counseling sessions in Let’s Talk Now locations. These are billable appointments with licensed CAPS professionals, but students choose a location convenient for them instead of having to go to the IU Health Center.
As an instructor, Cheng said he sees how students’ well-being can affect their academic performance. He said he absorbs the experiences he hears students share in Let’s Talk Now to better understand the struggles students face.
“Ultimately, we want to keep everybody safe,” Cheng said. “We want to make sure that students are going through their lives without having to burden themselves.”
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