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Note: This message was sent to campus April 21, 2022, from Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Amy Johnson and Professor and Department of Psychiatry Chair Samantha Meltzer-Brody.

At the November 2021 UNC-Chapel Hill Mental Health Summit, we announced plans to host a book-end event to our mental health programming for the academic year with a Mental Health Colloquium in May 2022. The half-day event was intended as a follow up discussion on the focus areas of crisis services, prevention, and the culture of care and compassion on campus.

With the rapidly waning days of the semester, competing commitments, and pressing deadlines that come with this time of year, we are mindful that a late-spring Colloquium may not be the best timing. As a result, we have decided to postpone our plans for the half-day Colloquium until the fall, which we will use to kick off our Carolina Mental Health Seminar Series for Academic Year 22-23. Details will be posted soon at care.unc.edu.

In its place this month, we’ll instead host a brief “Carolina Mental Health Update” on April 28, from noon to 1:30. At this virtual event we will:

  • Revisit themes from the fall semester mental health summit.
  • Recap current efforts toward supporting campus mental health and well-being.
  • Consider the topics for next year’s Carolina Mental Health Seminar Series.

Please register for Carolina Mental Health Update event to receive a Zoom link.

In the meantime, we hope you will explore and bookmark the Heels Care Network, our central campus hub for mental health resources for all UNC-Chapel Hill community members – students, employees, families and the broader community.

Thank you for your support and commitment to a caring and compassionate Carolina community. We look forward to seeing you at the April 28 Update and the Fall Colloquium!

This summer's group offerings include Improv Your Way to You, Graduate and Professional Students of Color, Dissertation Support, Post-Doc Support, and Koru Mindfulness.

Details are available on the Therapy Groups Offered website.

A double alumna of the University, Jessica Lambert Ward has considered UNC her home for more than 20 years.

Ward received both her undergraduate and master's degrees at UNC. Now, she serves as the director of the Carolina Collaborative for Resilience, working to create a more supportive environment for undergraduate and graduate students.

“I am really here to do the work," Lambert Wardsaid. "To build the trust of the UNC community, and the students, and create a kind of environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and understood, and supported.”

With the excitement that comes from being able to gather without as many COVID-19 restrictions as we experienced in months past, among many other milestones to celebrate, we encourage everyone in the Tar Heel community to continue looking out for one another this LDOC.   

Being an active bystander means you are observing the environment around you in anticipation of taking action, rather than just expecting someone else will. If we are all active bystanders, we will create a community that promotes healthy values, where we can depend on each other.   

Some ways we can help ensure the safety and wellness of all Tar Heels include: 

Before going out. Arrange a way to get home before you leave the house. Travel together with someone you trust and talk through where you plan on going and what activities you plan on engaging in. This way you can watch out for one another. A good conversation starter can include making the decision to eat before you go or discussing where to get food. Also, if you plan to drink alcohol, set an intention for how much you want to drink before going out. Research shows that this helps people stay within the safe limits they are hoping for. 

Learn more about UNC's alcohol policy and tips for reducing your risk if you drink at alcohol.unc.edu.

While you are out. Avoid consuming substances from communal areas, to help ensure you know what is in your cup. Stay with your group of friends.  

Throughout the night. Count your drinks, and be sure to drink plenty of water. Be mindful of your surroundings —keep in mind that you’re often in residential neighborhoods with people who aren’t students or aren’t celebrating on LDOC. 

Stress Relief & Substance use 

While it could be tempting to turn to alcohol to cope with the stress of exams, know that alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system and negatively impact your ability to regulate your emotions.  It can also affect academic performance and brain function. If you're considering using substances understand what you are putting into your body and the potential risk involved. Know that most Carolina students, if they choose to drink at all, only consume 3 drinks on a night out (NCHA, 2019). 

If you are concerned about your substance use habits, check out the Student Wellness website for resources or send us an email to set up a one-on-one appointment with a trained staff member.  

Take Care of Yourself!

Taking care of yourself, your friends and your family can help you cope with stress and make your community stronger. 

  • Take intentional breaks from your screens. Being on your phone or computer for extended periods of time can be draining.  Schedule in breaks to get outside or call a friend to break up your studying and schoolwork. Try to do some activities outside you enjoy. 
  • Take care of your body... and your brain. 
  • Meditate
  • Eat Well
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Make time to unwind. Practice self-care during this time by journaling, meditating or trying a new self-compassion exercise. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out and ask for help. Additional mental health resources can be found here.  
  • Connect with others. If you want to get together, hang with small groups who you know well and trust. Assess your risk with the updated CDC guidelines and recommendations. 
  • Support your friends, family and your community. Send encouraging text messages with jokes, memes, funny pictures and/or inspiration. 

No matter how you celebrate LDOC, take time to reflect on the year, center your well-being and support your fellow Tar Heels.  

Happy LDOC! 

By Alyssa, a Peer Tutor at the Writing and Learning Centers

I didn’t realize how much school affected my mental health until my Freshman year of college. I was sitting in my dorm, listening to my heart pound in my chest at the mere thought of doing poorly on my next physics exam and wondering how I had let my stress get so out of control.

“Fun Fact: the average person can throw a baseball at least 3 giraffes high”

Unfortunately, this cute giraffe fact that my professor put on our first physics exam did not make me feel any better about my exam grade. I have a tendency to beat myself up about my academic performance. In high school, my friends would roll their eyes and assume I was humble-bragging whenever I complained about missing one or two questions on an exam, but every little mistake made me think, I am lazy and stupid and just not trying hard enough.

My transition to college was hard in many ways I had never anticipated. I was struggling to understand the content in some of my classes, which I never experienced in high school. Every time I bombed a physics test or couldn’t figure out how to make my code work for my programming class, I felt like a fraud and a failure. It got harder and harder to find the motivation to do things I actually enjoyed. Tasks like studying concepts I hadn’t understood in lecture or solving problems that would take me hours to figure out seemed totally insurmountable.

At times, just the mention of school left me spiraling. This is hopeless. Life is exhausting. The only way I kept up with my school work was by leveraging my fear that I will be an even bigger failure to force myself to be productive.

Although college was not the cause of my mental health problems, being in a high-stress academic environment far from my support system exacerbated my underlying depression and anxiety beyond what I could handle on my own. Learning to acknowledge and cope with mental illness has been a long, often challenging process, and I am still figuring out how to manage my mental health with academics and extracurricular activities. Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned (so far) about balancing mental health with college life:

Learn Your Low Points

Having a mental illness can be incredibly isolating. My depression makes it hard for me to believe that I deserve help and even harder to find the motivation to seek it out. That means it is important for me to be conscious of signs that I need help and make an extra effort to connect with the resources I need. On the mental health side, I keep tabs on my mood and look for indicators that I need another therapy appointment. More recently, I reached out to my primary care physician for medication to help me manage some of my more severe symptoms.

On the academic side, asking for help means that when I find myself struggling in class, I don’t retreat inward and get stuck in a cycle of telling myself I should be smart enough to figure this out on my own. Instead, I accept that asking for help is part of the learning process and seek out the support I need to maximize my success in every class. If I’m confused about a concept or assignment, I usually start by talking to one of my friends in the class.

The idea of talking to a professor or TA about a problem I’m having can be a bit more daunting. When I start drafting an email to a professor, I always feel a bit afraid of coming across as incompetent. To combat that anxiety, I take care to write a polite, professional email and do my best to remember that most professors are more than happy to support their students.

I also keep resources like Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching on my radar in case I need extra one-on-one support. Asking for help and making a proactive effort to connect to the resources available to me has helped relieve some of the anxiety I feel about school. Instead of spending hours getting frustrated with myself for not being able to figure out a problem, I seek out support when I need it. Becoming more comfortable with the concept of asking for help makes me a better collaborative learner and helps me view challenging problems as opportunities to grow as a student instead of evidence of my own limitations.

Build Bridges

Before Freshman year, I had never been away from home for more than a week or so at a time. When I lived at home, I was surrounded by people that I could talk to if I needed support. Living at college was different: even though I had close friends, in the back of my mind, I felt like no one can understand what I’m going through. It was easy to give into the urge to isolate myself whenever I was feeling depressed, which inevitably left me feeling even worse. 

For me, the toughest part of building a new support system at college was how big everything felt. In high school, it was relatively easy to make friends, since I was surrounded by more or less the same people every day for four years. It was a lot harder to make friends in a massive lecture hall of several hundred people than it was in a classroom of thirty-some.

Over time, I learned how to reach out and make connections at college. I joined several clubs and extracurricular activities that seemed interesting to me, and I ended up meeting a lot of people with similar interests. I started talking more to the people I share classes and labs with, even if we were just commiserating about the latest grueling assignment. Every friendly face I saw on campus made me feel a bit less alone, and I found several close friends that I really clicked with as well.

When I started being open about my mental illness, I discovered that my friends and family are a more reliable support system than I ever gave them credit for. I tried talking to some of my close friends at college about my struggles with mental health, and they were encouraging and understanding. When I’m having a tough time with depression, I call one of my family members instead of isolating myself, and they always manage to make me feel a bit better.

Connecting with my support system makes it easier to manage the ups and downs of my mental illness, which helps me get back on track to focus on classes and other activities. When I tried to keep my depression and anxiety to myself, I saw the results reflected in my coursework. I often felt too anxious to focus on studying or too depressed to find motivation to get my work done.

When I share some of my struggles with my support system, it feels a little easier to keep my mental health from interfering with the things I want to do. If I talk to my friends about an exam grade I’m upset about, they can usually talk me down from my anxiety and help me put that one grade in the context of a whole semester of opportunities to learn and improve. Having that support makes it easier for me to get out of my own head and focus on doing my best work.

Make a Plan of Action

Between classes, work, volunteering, and other extracurricular activities, my schedule for the week is usually pretty busy. Once the semester starts, the list of things I need to get done every week becomes pretty overwhelming. I spend a lot of time worrying I am never going to be able to get all this work doneSolid time management is essential for helping me manage the anxiety surrounding my to-do list.

At the beginning of the semester, I put all of my major assignment due dates in a Google calendar. I also add in volunteer shifts, club meetings, appointments, and other scheduled events as they arise. At the beginning of each week, I use that calendar to make a list of everything I have to do for that week, adding in chores or other personal activities that aren’t on the calendar. I then split the activities for the week onto seven separate Post-it notes that I stick above my desk, trying to spread the workload evenly throughout the upcoming week.

As the week goes on, I cross off activities as I finish them. When I don’t finish everything I have planned, I move to-do items to another day in the week. Knowing that I have a structured yet flexible plan to tackle the week, I can talk myself down when I start thinking I can’t handle this.

Pink Post-it note titled To Do 2/15 with a list of to-do items like watch CHEM 430 lecture and fold laundry.
One of my many Post-it notes.

Probably the most important part of my daily schedule is that I make a point of blocking out at least one self-care activity each day. Most days, that activity is something like going for a walk, watching a movie, or reading a book. Anxiety and depression often leave me believing I don’t deserve a break. I need to keep working to make sure I don’t slip up. Scheduling a self-care activity each day reminds me that taking time for myself is important, especially on the days when my mental illness tells me otherwise. When I take time out of my day to take care of myself, I have more energy and focus to get back to work later.

Treat Yourself Right

Even though I do my best to strike an equitable balance between mental health and academics, things are far from perfect. Sometimes I spend days agonizing because I forgot about an assignment even though it was on my to-do list, or I did badly on a test that I thought I was prepared for. I still have a lot of times where depression makes it hard to find the motivation to get work done or I feel overwhelmed with anxiety about the future. It’s times like these when I need to remember to practice self-compassion.

Self-compassion means forgiving myself when things don’t work out perfectly. It means treating myself with kindness instead of derision when my depression or anxiety starts to feel insurmountable. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, I am trying my best. I can forgive myself for making mistakes. I deserve time to relax and take care of myself. For the really bad days, I keep a list of coping mechanisms on my phone so I can easily come up with something to do to make myself feel a bit better.

An iPhone Notes app titled Coping Skills includes ideas such as stretch, be with nature, and go for a drive.
My list of ways to cope when I’m having a rough day.

Balancing mental health with college life will probably never be easy. I’m still far from having everything figured out, but I’m starting to feel like I’m heading in the right direction. For now, I will do my best to stick to the strategies that work for me and try to make every day a little bit better than the one before.

Resources:


This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC-Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

During a pandemic, with the winter weather disruptions of late, and the near-constant tensions in current events, none of us can be as productive as usual. The strategies below can help us be efficiently productive to allow time for self-care. 

Campus Survival is a Marathon, not a Sprint

Time is our most limited resource. If you're feeling exhausted but still don't have time for all of your work, make a change. Pause, evaluate how you're spending your time, and find solutions to help you work less but accomplish more. It's possible.

Self-Care is a Responsibility

Hobbies, physical movement, and rest are critical to your success as a student or employee. Self-care helps your mind and body be ready to focus, write, memorize and perform. Sleeping enough, seeing friends, cooking food, playing sports, finding fun - these activities genuinely help you produce better work. Learn which leisure activities are helpful and which only provide the illusion of rest and recovery. If you ever feel pressured to skip self-care, remember self-care is a responsibility, not an indulgence.

Watch for the Short-Term Task Trap

Life requires balancing three things: short-term tasks, long-term tasks, and self-care. Short-term tasks (due tomorrow, due this week, waiting for a reply) have the most visible deadlines, which push us to prioritize them. Alternatively, long-term tasks (writing a thesis, finishing a paper) and self-care activities (sleep, rest, play, movement) are much more important, but there is little consequence to letting time slip by without working on them. This makes it easy to start skipping on self-care or long-term projects. Fight to keep short-term tasks from taking over. Accountability helps.

  • Create your own deadlines and rules, like "3 pages by X date" or  "Go for a jog M/W/F" or "Meal with a friend 2x per week."
  • Reserve times exclusively for long-term tasks or self-care. Never let short-term tasks violate those protected hours, even if that means leaving someone waiting.

There are More Things Worth Doing Than Anyone Can Do

When deciding whether or not to take on a new task or project, ask yourself "Is this more worth doing than the thing I will have to give up to do it?" Anything you add means less time for something else. Consider what you'll be giving up and whether losing that will be worth it. You might wait 24 hours before saying "yes" to something new to give time for reflection.

Campus Culture Pushes Us in Many Directions

University culture pushes us to ask a lot of ourselves - as a student, employee, friend, intellectual, agent of change, and more. No one can give outstanding effort in so many directions at once. Focus on the aspects of life that are most important for you personally to give your all. 

Reach out for help if you need it.

There are many support structures at UNC-Chapel Hill to help you balance campus demands.

For students: advisors, learning center coacheswellbeing coachesCAPS, and more.

For employees: Work-Life Balance, Center for Faculty Excellence

Reach out for help if you need it. 

Adapted from Healthy Work Habits by Ada Palmer

The Writing Center at UNC provides many useful educational resources on their website, including the "How I Write and Learn" blog. This blog contains many posts on things such as time management, studying tips, academic coaching and more. This resource is a wonderful way to improve your academic success and alleviate stress to take care of your well-being.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has left you feeling disconnected, disheartened or just plain down in the dumps, a good way to reconnect and feel better is to volunteer in your community.

Before the pandemic, about three in 10 Americans volunteered each year, but 2020 saw a major drop in volunteerism as people stayed home to stay safe and weren’t sure how to find virtual opportunities.

Finding a safe way to volunteer now can not only help your community but can also benefit your whole health, says Dr. Austin Hall, medical director of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health.

“We approach patient care holistically,” Hall says. “That means making sure that we are looking at patients’ physical, social and cognitive well-being. Volunteering is a great tool that can engage all of those aspects of health.”

Whether you help build a home, serve food, clean up litter or perform another act of service, here are four ways Hall says volunteering can benefit your health.

Mental health benefits of volunteer work

Volunteering has been shown to have a positive effect on both mental health and cognitive abilities. By engaging in a common mission or cause with others, you feel more connected and useful, which spurs happier thoughts and a more positive outlook.

Spending time volunteering can also keep your mind sharp by engaging your brain.

“The most solid evidence for the cognitive benefits of volunteering has been shown in older adults, because they have been studied most,” Hall says. “In this age group, volunteering can delay cognitive decline. But at any age, engaging your mind in this way may have cognitive benefits.”

Physical health benefits of volunteer work

Physical activity is good for your body, and volunteering can help get you moving.

“The primary volunteer opportunity we offer individuals through our center is working on our farm, where we grow fresh produce for people in our area with mental illness who might have barriers to accessing healthy foods or incorporating whole foods into their diet,” Hall says. “This kind of volunteering gets people active outdoors, which has even more added benefits, like fresh air and a dose of vitamin D from the sun.”

Physical activity has also been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, so by choosing an active volunteer opportunity, you can benefit even more. Keep in mind that in most volunteer situations, the physical activity required can be modified to fit a person’s abilities.

Social-emotional health benefits of volunteer work

A healthy part of the human experience is being around others. Hall says that generally, people who are more isolated from others are more prone to mental health conditions. In addition, sometimes mental health conditions can make people feel more isolated or cause them to isolate themselves. Socialization can break that cycle, bringing the experience of feeling connected and helping people build new relationships.

Finding purpose in volunteer work

“Meaningful and purposeful roles are important to our health,” Hall says. “Volunteer opportunities have the potential to create an additional role for individuals that may contribute to their feeling of meaning and purpose.”

Having roles that feel meaningful can help with your sense of worth and value. Especially at this point in the pandemic, developing a new social identity through volunteering may be helpful for people who are feeling a little lost.

Volunteering safely during a pandemic

As with any activity, people have different comfort levels with the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while volunteering. Whatever your risk tolerance, it is possible to serve your community safely. Many organizations offer virtual opportunities and outdoor opportunities. If you volunteer inside with other people, make sure to wear a mask. If you’re vaccinated against COVID-19, you may feel comfortable tackling the same kind of volunteer activities you would have done before the pandemic.

Austin Hall

Dr. Austin Hall is an associate professor of psychiatry and director of clinical informatics in psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and the medical director of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health.

Read more stories from UNC Health.

Looking for new friends who share your taste in books, movies, TV, podcasts, or music? Library Social Clubs are coming soon. These student-run clubs will meet on your terms. We’re just here to help you

Looking for new friends who share your taste in books, movies, TV, podcasts, or music? Sign up for a Library Social Club and find people who like what you like. These student-run clubs will meet on your terms. (The Library is just here to help you connect.) 

NOTE: Only clubs with 10 or more students will launch. Spread the word to be sure your favorite idea gets off the ground!  

LIBRARY SOCIAL CLUB SIGN-UPS — OPEN NOW!

Sign-ups are now open for spring 2022! We asked for theme suggestions and you delivered. There are 40 themes listed on the sign-up form, and there’s something for everyone.

Sign-ups are open until March 4. Don’t miss your chance to find your people! 

At the end of the sign-up period, we’ll contact every student who signed up for each group and invite two students to self-nominate as group leaders. Groups will begin mid-March.

The CAPS Multicultural Health Program centers the needs of Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color at Carolina with therapy and outreach. In this Q&A they share how they work to support Carolina students.

How long has MCHP been at Carolina and where are you located? The Multicultural Health Program (MCHP) was developed in the Summer of 2020 and is housed within Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which is a division of Campus Health. CAPS is located on the third floor of the James A. Taylor Building, the building that houses Campus Health, situated between Kenan Stadium and UNC Hospitals, just south of the Bell Tower Parking Deck.

How many staff are in MCHP and what are their various roles? MCHP currently consists of four staff members and we are actively seeking to add to our staff. Each staff member brings expertise in a variety of areas including adjustment issues, racial trauma, family of origin concerns, gender and sexuality, spirituality, and first generation/acculturation issues to name a few.

What does your department do to support students at Carolina? MCHP supports students of color at Carolina by providing individual therapy, group therapy, outreach engagements, workshops and staff/faculty consultation. We have also begun developing liaison relationships with campus departments and partnerships with student organizations.

What would you say to encourage students to contact your office? One of the goals of MCHP is to decrease stigma in communities of color and our staff are reflective of that commitment. Weare approachable,knowledgeable and open to meeting students where they are at. We encourage students to attend outreach events or workshops and connect to us that way or to simply walk into CAPS for an initial assessment and discuss getting connected to a MCHP provider.

How has your team adapted to provide service during COVID-19? Since we were developed during the global pandemic, we have always provided virtual services to our students. All of our services are currently virtual and all of our team meetings occur virtually as well. If a student group has an outreach request in-person, we work with them to find flexible solutions such as pre-recorded presentations and resources or a hybrid model which allows a MCHP team member to Zoom into the outreach project.We believe flexibility will be key to keeping students, particularly students of color, involved in treatment moving forward.

What is the one thing about your office you wish students knew? We want students to know that we are here to meet their needs and we are open to hearing about ways to better meet their needs. As an example, students of color approached MCHP about the possibility of creating a group for students who have difficult home/family lives. Through this advocacy the All in the Family group was created last semester and has been a wonderful addition to our groups program.

UNC Student Wellness supports Carolina students through education and development of a campus culture that promotes making healthy choices. Student Wellness Director Dean Blackburn and Health Messaging Coordinator Sarah Fitzgerald tell us about the department and how their work supports students.

How long has Student Wellness been at Carolina?

Health education as a standalone unit was initially established in the mid-1980’s as a one-person operation out of the then Student Health Services. In the mid-2000's after many years of adding staff, refocusing the mission, department merger, and name change, we became Counseling and Wellness Services. Around 2012 it was determined that health promotion and wellness programs and services needed a more visible role on campus and a decision was made to separate the two offices again, and the current iteration of the office of Student Wellness was developed. 

Where are you located? 

Student Wellness is located in the Student and Academic Services Building (SASB) South in Suite 1310. Come visit us!

How many staff are in Student Wellness? 

Our Student Wellness team currently includes approximately 10 full-time employees, five part-time employees, three graduate interns, three undergraduate interns and two work-study students. 

What does Student Wellness do to support students at Carolina? 

The primary audience for Student Wellness’s efforts is students — both undergraduate and graduate/professional students. To best serve students, we also work with faculty, staff and families to better understand the needs of students and resources available to support them.  We also work closely with local community members to build networks and collaborative efforts to further support our students, both on and off campus.   

The office today focuses on educating, developing skills, building out additional resources, and advocating for a campus culture that supports students in making the healthiest choices. Included in our specific offerings are education and services related to sexual health and healthy relationships; overall health promotion of proactive/prosocial health and wellness choices and actions; a specific and growing focus on promoting and supporting mental well-being (through stress reduction/management, self-esteem and compassion building, coping and resiliency strategies, etc); and through programs and services that help students navigate decisions regarding substance use (abstinence, risk reduction, early intervention, treatment referral and recovery supports).  We do this through a growing lens of understanding health determinants for various student populations (first year, first gen, economics, grad/professional, international, race, gender, etc) and supporting health equity through increased cultural competence and cultural relevance in our offerings. 

What are some of the top wellness issues that you think are facing Carolina students? 

Our department is actively assessing the needs of students through various media, including National assessments, program evaluations and insightful conversations with student groups. The pandemic has highlighted a handful of specific areas that we know Carolina students are struggling with, including anxiety and depression, isolation and loneliness, and stress and coping. 

We also know that Carolina students have historically not gotten adequate amounts of sleep, which can exacerbate these other areas. 

How has your team adapted to provide service during COVID-19? 

Wellness continues to adapt to the pandemic by providing services that meet students' highest needs and increasing accessibility to programs, 1:1 wellness coaching sessions, and shifting to both virtually and hybrid platforms. As the pandemic has continued and students have started to feel zoom fatigue, we have felt it is important to meet Tar Heels where they are at. This semester we will be adapting by launching the Well-Being Campaign initiatives in person with Monday tablings in Rams Head and Wednesday lunchtime workshops. 

What is the one wellness tip you want to share with students today? 

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” Try establishing a self-care routine that makes time for at least one thing you enjoy doing for yourself every day. Read a book, go for a walk, sleep, bake, yoga, exercise, rest … what’s important is that you find what works for you! "

This semester UNC-Chapel Hill is offering monthly virtual mental health seminars addressing the intersection of mental health with related topics such as faith, addition/substance use, intimate partner violence, and vulnerable populations.  

The second seminar, Mental Health, Alcohol, and Drugs: How Do They Connect?, was offered on Monday, March 28, from 3:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.  

The conversation was facilitated by Dr. Charla Blumell, Assistant Director of Health Promotion and Prevention with Student Wellness, and framed by a panel of experts discussing the role that alcohol and drugs play in mental health.

Faculty Presenter: Dr. Stacey Daughters

Stacey B. Daughters, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of North Carolina. Dr. Daughters expertise is in the identification of neurobiological and behavioral determinants of substance use treatment response, with a focus on reward sensitivity and distress tolerance, as well as the translation of experimental findings into targeted and effective interventions, most notably behavioral activation and transcranial alternating current stimulation. 

Panelist Wendy Kadens, MBA, MSW

Wendy Kadens is a clinical social worker at CAPS, Originally from New York City, she received her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Vassar College, her Masters in Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Columbia University, and her Master's of Social Work (M.S.W.) from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Wendy's professional interests include adjustment and resilience, grief and loss, and chronic illness. According to Wendy, her approach adjusts to meet the needs and perspectives of the student that she works with. She combines aspects of mindfulness, acceptance, and exploration of how we come to be who we are. Outside CAPS, she enjoys cooking and eating, time with her family, and being a professional homebody/staycationer.

Panelist Dean Blackburn

Dean Blackburn is the Director of Student Wellness and an Associate Dean of Students.

Dean has worked in Student Affairs at Carolina for over 20 years, and has worked in the field of health education/health promotion and primary prevention work for almost 30 years.  He enjoys working with students, staff, faculty, alum, parents, and community partners to create an atmosphere that promotes students' healthy decision making regarding their health and safety.  Dean is interested in the intersections of identity, culture, education, politics, and economics as they impact the health outcomes, disparities, and access to wellness for all students.  He believes that breaking down barriers, developing coalitions, and advocating for equitable access is primary to ensuring every student has the necessary resources to be both healthy and whole, as well as personally and academically successful at Carolina and beyond.  He enjoys doing this work through individual conversations with students; teaching; outreach to larger groups; collaborating with colleagues across campus and the community; broad based committee involvement; research/policy development; and state and national involvement and leadership in the field.

Dean received his formal education in social work and psychology through an undergraduate degree from Elon University and later a graduate degree from Duke University, but considers himself a student of life, and enjoys reading on public health, wellbeing, justice, queer theory and just about every other topic.   When not having a great time with his Wellness colleagues and students on campus, he enjoys outdoor activities, public service, traveling to new places, time with family and friends, and hanging out with his two amazing Labrador mix rescues, Sampson and Sebastian. 

Panelist Heather Gallagher, LCMHC, LCAS

Heather is a clinical addictions specialist at UNC's Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program (ASAP). She began her professional career in the field of mental health before transitioning into the field of substance abuse counseling. Heather graduated with a degree in substance abuse and clinical counseling and has now been working as a professional counselor since 2014. She utilizes a number of modalities while working with others, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Seeking Safety.

Heather enjoys working from a holistic model, viewing the mind-body connection, while working towards recovery. In addition to working with issues of addiction, she has a special interest in helping patients work through depression, anxiety, behavioral addictions, and trauma. As a therapist, Heather views her role as supportive and collaborative. She hopes to join alongside patients to navigate recovery, meet their own unique needs, and build a life worth living. Lastly, Heather also performs substance abuse assessments for those who have received a DWI.

Attendees had the opportunity to listen, learn, and contribute thoughts and questions during the event. The seminar was recorded for viewing by those who could not attend.

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