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University Life Café

 screenshot of the university life cafe home page

Collegian Article about University Life Cafe website

 

Counseling Services sets up new Web site

By Sam Nearhood

Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009

College is a stressful time in the lives of many students, and their health can take a toll, especially mentally. According to the American College Health Association, 49 percent of higher education students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety and 30 percent claimed to have trouble functioning due to depression.

K-State students who fall into these statistics have the opportunity to seek help on campus through K-State’s Counseling Services.

To combat these problems of anxiety and depression, Counseling Services recently created a new Web site, UniversityLifeCafe.org.

“One of the whole underlying ideas is that it’s a bridge for students who wouldn’t want to come into the counseling center, who maybe really don’t need counseling but are looking for information on, say, body image issues or depression or time management,” said Barbara Pearson, assistant director of Counseling Services.

Pearson said University Life Cafe was designed with one thing in mind: community. Counseling Services intends the site to be a common ground where students can address problems and receive feedback from others in the same situation. To achieve this, they have included features such as a blog.

“The blog offers a forum for students to post thoughts on a variety of questions ranging from where the best places are to eat in Manhattan to handling depression or roommate issues,” Pearson said.

She added that Counseling Services would like the site to be more than a resource for mental health issues.

“We really brainstormed what is on the Web site, and what students wanted was a place to build community, not just a place to find out about suicide and depression – they felt they could Google that – but a place to go to find out about events, where students could post artwork and poetry, and find out professional information.”

University Life Cafe incorporates many media with which students are familiar. It has a Facebook.com page, a Twitter.com account and is holding its second annual art contest, with winners shown in the William T. Kemper Foundation Art Gallery in the K-State Student Union.

Julie Hamel, graduate student in counseling and student development, said these promotional tools are used to raise awareness for the project.

“Our end goal is not to have them stop on Facebook,” Hamel said. “The ultimate goal is to lead them to the Web site and make sure that what they need is there.”

Counseling Services set up University Life Cafe with federal grant money from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is run by an advisory board of staff psychologists and students meant to give feedback on the Web site and continually improve its services. Pearson said the group functions to integrate students into the brainstorming process.

“What we would like is to get student input and perspective about how to best reach students and to have student involvement,” she said. “For University Life Cafe, that’s been our philosophy from the very beginning.”

Anne Dinsdale, graduate student in college student personnel and member of the student advisory board, said she believes students should utilize University Life Cafe to connect with other students and raise awareness of promoting emotional wellness.

“I think counseling often has a bad connotation, the word,” Dinsdale said. “Students are scared to go to counseling because it means that something is wrong with them. Mental health is a very taboo subject, so we need to make it okay to talk about it. University Life Cafe is sort of a safe ground between counseling and blogs.”