Delta College promotes mental health during pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing mental health issues to the forefront.

With shelter-in-place guidelines forcing nonessential businesses to close and residents to stay at home, many are left without their usual routines of school and work to keep themselves and their minds occupied.

The pandemic has caused an array of mental health concerns such as excessive worry, anxiety, stress, depression and feelings of isolation and loneliness, according to Counselor/Professor Heather Bradford.

“In a matter of weeks, life as we knew it changed drastically and this kind of change, in itself, can be very difficult because it means a loss of control and predictability, and adjusting to a new normal in everyday life,” Bradford said.

She recommends students challenge their way of thinking in order to improve their mental and emotional well-being.

“While there are so many things we aren’t able to control or change right now, we are in control of our thoughts and reactions to any situation,” Bradford said. “We can practice mindfulness to gain a greater awareness of our thoughts and how these thoughts are affecting our mental and physical well-being.”

Although this technique sounds simple, Bradford said it’s powerful and backed by science and research for improving mood and mental health.

“Once we become more mindful of our thoughts, we can then take further action steps towards self-care and being able to better support and care for those around us,” she said.

While the pandemic has changed the way Bradford interacts with students, she continues to provide support for them through Café Connections.

Café Connections is the name for her weekly public meetings held on Zoom, a video conference platform. Delta’s website states the Zoom Meeting ID is 874-887-5773. The meetings take place on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

During these meetings, Bradford discusses self-care, mindfulness, managing anxiety and worry, staying motivated, tips for healthy eating and exercise, staying connected, and mental health resources.

“During one of my daily walks, the idea for Café Connections came to me and it was brought to my awareness as clearly as though someone was speaking it to me,” Bradford said. “I knew this was more than an idea. It was something I felt compelled to do because I knew it might help others.”

Braford enlisted the help of Sharon Drueen, a personal clinical counseling intern from Stanislaus State University, to facilitate the conversations on Café Connections.

“I was thrilled when she asked me to be a part of it,” Drueen said. “I am passionate about teaching mental health topics. This group is part psychoeducational and part a way to just gather and share.”

Participating in Café Connections has helped Drueen to cope with isolation during the pandemic.

“At the beginning of the shelter-in-place, I found myself struggling with my own feelings,” she said. “I am an extrovert and get my energy from being around others. My emotions were on a roller coaster daily and I didn’t like the feeling.”

Drueen said she realized that in order to be there for her clients and students in crisis, she needed to put her own mental health first. She started by putting into practice some of what she teaches others.

“I established a consistent routine, ate only healthy foods, drank more water, went for more walks, practiced more self-care, practiced mindfulness nightly, practiced gratefulness daily, and reframed my negative thoughts,” she said.

Vanessa Vega, president of the Active Minds club, has also made an effort to help fellow students during this time of uncertainty.

The mission of the Active Minds club, which was introduced to Delta in 2018, is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and provide a safe space for students to seek emotional support.

“I like to think it provides a sense of comfort and community,” Vega said.

The club used to meet in Shima 146 at 1:30 p.m. every Wednesday, but has since moved its meetings to Zoom. Delta’s website states the Zoom Meeting ID is 566-962-470. The meetings continue to be held at the same time and on the same day.

“Mental health is a topic we should be talking about all the time, but it’s especially important right now,” Vega said.

In addition to expressing your emotions, Vega said she believes it’s important to show yourself the same compassion that you would have for others.

“Realize that some days will be more productive than others and that’s okay,” Vega said. “I’m taking things one task at a time and remembering that before I’m a student, I’m a human.”