The LSU Student Health Center provides various programs available for students to utilize to manage stress and anxiety due to COVID-19.

LSU Student Health Center Director of Mental Health Dr. John Oztenberger said COVID-19 has caused and can cause “a lot of fear and anxiety” and affect students’ mental health. The LSU Student Health Center has virtual programs and services that students can utilize to improve their mental health and manage stress.

He said overwhelming worry of one getting sick or family and friends contracting the virus can create great fear, stress and anxiety in the community. This added stress can especially affect college students.

LSU experts weigh in on mental health amid stay-at-home order

Otzenberger said there are many ways college students can take care of their mental health during a stressful time like a pandemic. 

“It starts with yourself,” Otzenberger said. “The three things I talk about all the time with people are ‘Are you sleeping okay? Are you eating okay? Are you exercising?’”

Otzenberger said creating a routine to combine eating, sleeping and exercising well is really important to mental health. Those are core actions people can take every day to take care of themselves. 

He said remaining connected to those in one’s community is important to mental health as well.

“Reaching out and calling friends, talking to family members, talking about how you feel and reaching out and asking a friend how they feel is really important because it maintains that connection with the community,” Otzenberger said.

For those with a prior history of depression or anxiety, Otzenberger said maintaining contact with a therapist, psychologist or counselor is important. LSU Mental Health Service provides this service through telemental health therapy.

“If you’re isolated and you would like to talk to a therapist and you’re an LSU student, you can absolutely use our services,” Otzenberger said. 

LSU Mental Health Service also has a service called ThePhone, which is a 24/7 crisis and emotional support hotline. Oztenberger said ThePhone also provides a texting chat service along with the phone call hotline.

"The telemental health services that we use have worked really well with our students," Otzenberger said.

MindWise is another service offered by LSU Mental Health Service. Otzenberger said it is an online program that allows you to take a self-assessment that will give you a score and resources if you are experiencing symptoms.

Brief sessions with a therapy through a program called "Let's Talk" were offered on campus during the school year and are still offered during the summer in virtual sessions.

Let's Talk provides are 15-minute sessions where students can talk with a therapist. Otzenberger said this program is not therapy, but it can encourage students to start going to therapy if they find they need it.

Open groups are also seminars where students can learn more about improving their mental health. Otzenberger said one that is popular is called Emotional Wisdom, which teaches students how to effectively manage anxiety and depression. 

"People can easily access mental health care in that way," Otzenberger said.

He said seminars and open groups for the fall will be offered and are being set up.

"There's been research that says it's been harder for college students to access mental health [services] because of the pandemic," Otzenberger said, "but we've worked really hard to keep that open through telemental health."

LSU Mental Health Service also has a case manager that can help students find mental health services and resources if they are not offered at LSU. 

"Don't hesitate to ask for help," Otzenberger said. "Have the courage to ask for help."

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