A New Approach To Mental Health

In normal times, mental health and self-care are often overlooked or swept under the rug. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, however, physical and financial hardships have greatly impacted our mental and emotional well-being.  

Just recently, Western Technical College reorganized the college’s Counseling and Case Management Services, offering strength-based, holistic, wrap-around service model to promote resilience and well-being by supporting the College’s retention efforts.

Western’s philosophy of counseling centers on preventative, holistic, and student-directed care. This approach is called trauma-informed. This trauma-informed model centers on empowerment and choice. The College has a long history of providing counseling services to students, but now it’s been upgraded. The new model uses a case management approach. Counseling is individualized and strengths-based to offer the right amount of support uniquely tailored to each student. 

“The pandemic is exposing societal weaknesses and creating an increased demand for mental health support,” said Ann Brandau, director of Counseling and Case Management at Western.

COVID-19 impacts students in several ways, from job losses, sickness, family support, economic stresses, homeschooling, and much more. While many students seek help for anxiety and depression, a different overall theme has emerged in the past ten months—a strong sense of loss: loss of connections, experiences, togetherness, and loved ones. 

Western’s new Center of Care case management team works to gather resources to aid students both inside and outside the classroom. These resources include stable housing, medication management, long-term therapy, health insurance access, and more.

“Many students have shown remarkable strength and resiliency, but COVID-19 has challenged everyone,” said Brandau.

The new philosophy workers with Western employees as well. How are Western employees able to care deeply about our students’ success and view them as unique individuals while quelling their personal fears and concerns about the future? It begins with self-care.

“When we care for our minds, bodies, and spirits, our hearts and minds are open to compassion, generosity, concern, and care for others,” said Brandau. “We cannot give what we do not have within us; caring takes fuel, and we need to replenish our tanks.”

The Counseling and Case Management Team has led over 20 self-care sessions for Western staff to ensure they bring their best to the student experience. Western’s current self-care workshop series is based on the book 180 Days of Self-Care for Busy Educators; it’s available to students and employees. 

“Everyone needs care from time to time, and I’m honored to be part of a team that does that same kind of work at Western,” said Brandau. “It makes all the difference in the world when you know someone cares. More than ever, the importance of self-care and using support systems is critical.”

To learn more about Western’s Counseling and Case Management services, visit www.westerntc.edu/counseling.