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Brian Hogan's journey to becoming a teaching professor in the College of Arts and Science's chemistry department has been anything but a straight path. But through perseverance and an ask for help, the Tar Heel found a way to quiet the doubt that lingered in the back of his mind.

By John Roberts, University Communications, Monday, September 26th, 2022 | Original Post

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When Brian Hogan started his undergraduate studies, he thought he had his future as a scientist all figured out.

That feeling lasted until his first chemistry test, which he promptly failed.

“I felt like, ‘Well, I guess I’m done. I guess I’m not going to be a science major,” Hogan said. “Mentally, I started to doubt myself. I started to doubt that I could even do it.”

That doubt never really went away for Hogan. Even as he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry and landed a position as a teaching professor in the College of Arts and Science’s chemistry department, those thoughts of doubt and imposter syndrome lingered. It wasn’t until he asked for help and began working with mental health professionals that he turned a corner.

“It’s hard to change the way that you view the world when you’ve spent your whole adult life being really negative,” he said. “Once I changed the way that I looked at serving other people and being a teacher and being a mentor, I began to feel, ‘This is what makes me feel better about myself. It fills my soul.’ I’m lucky that I get to go to college every day for the rest of my life and be around really wonderful students as a college professor, that I can play some small part in their lives, and I get to do it over and over and over again, which is really rewarding.”

He now aims to help his students find joy in their lives.

“It’s OK if you don’t feel like your life is going in this perfect straight line,” Hogan said. “I’ve gotten to a point in my life where everything is going pretty well, but it wasn’t always easy and my path to get there was really circuitous, but I did persevere. I was able to get through it, and maybe they will find a little bit of solace in this story. I’ve been there. It turned out OK.”

Benefits of meditation and mindfulness practice and strategies to implement

Following a national search conducted by the search firm Keeling and Associates, Avery Cook, LCSW MSW has been named Director of UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Cook has been with CAPS since 2006 serving in various clinical and leadership roles including Associate Director and Clinical Coordinator. They have served as Interim Director since 2021 following the retirement of the previous CAPS Director, Dr. Allen O’Barr. 

“Avery Cook is a talented leader and practitioner who emerged from our national search as the clear choice to guide our CAPS team and our university’s approach to supporting student mental health.  We look forward to seeing our CAPS resources continue to strengthen under their leadership,” states Amy Johnson, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. 

Cook holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Davidson College and a Master of Social Work degree from the UNC School of Social Work. Cook also attended Duke University Divinity School as an Aldersgate Scholar. They are a member of both the National and North Carolina Associations of Social Work and have served in various capacities within the Orange County and UNC mental health communities. Cook currently volunteers as a leader of Bad Believer Inc, a national non-profit organization providing mental health support and resources to LGBTQ+ individuals for treatment of spiritual trauma. 

During their time as interim director, Cook prioritized immediate access for students in need, a focus that will continue in their permanent role. Cook commented, “It’s important to us that our students know they can access counseling resources when and where they need them: there’s no wait for students to be seen for initial appointments and walk-in opportunities are available every day. Students can connect with a mental health professional through CAPS 24/7 and with the addition of telehealth services, we also provide students brief therapy support on nights and weekends.”  

Looking ahead, Cook has big plans, saying, “I hope to continue to grow and expand our innovative programs such as the Multicultural Health Program and our embedded counselor program, in addition to continuing to find ways to increase access and decrease stigma for students in need of care.”  

UNC CAPS has more than 17,000 annual visits inclusive of both psychiatry and psychotherapy.  Services include brief therapy, group therapy, medication management, referral coordination, case management, crisis services, a Multicultural Health Program, and an Embedded Counselor Program within a number of graduate and professional schools. CAPS is a department of UNC Student Affairs and is organizationally structured within Campus Health. 

The third seminar in the Spring 2023 Mental Health Seminar Series, "Building Resilience: Strategies for Getting Through Challenging Times," will be held April 12th from 12 - 1:30 pm, on Zoom.

The end of the semester can feel challenging with the many demands on campus, in your social circles, and with your personal responsibilities – especially when paired with the looming transition to summer. Building resilience can help you navigate these difficult transition periods and emerge stronger on the other side. Join us for a mental health seminar presented by Dr. Sarah Rieves-Houston, Director of the Behavioral Health Springboard, to learn research-informed strategies to be more resilient during times of challenge.

Dr. Sarah Rieves-Houston serves as the director of Behavioral Health Springboard in the UNC School of Social Work. She holds an MS in Human Development from NCCU, a Masters in Education from ECU, a Ph.D. in Education from Capella University, and is ABD on a PsyD in Clinical Psychology with a focus on childhood trauma and resilience from California Southern University. Rieves is certified as a family trauma specialist and as a child and adolescent trauma specialist.

The Mental Health Seminar series is open to students, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, faculty, and staff. The series creates a space for learning, reflecting on, and discussing mental health. This year's seminars focus on research-to-practice, giving the audience both the science behind mental health and strategies they can employ right now. The overall goal is to empower all campus community members to help influence campus mental health and well-being. Join us!

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

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!

Since 2020, UNC-Chapel Hill has embedded Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) providers within various campus schools and programs including the School of Medicine and School of Law. 

Starting in January 2023, CAPS has embedded additional therapists in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. There are additional plans to place counselors in the Gillings School of Public Health and the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program.  

Embedded therapists can focus on and work with the students in those programs, allowing them to deeply understand the programs themselves, stressors specific to each school, and challenges faced by students within them. The embedded therapists can use program-specific knowledge and understanding to serve their students better in treatment as well as offer proactive groups and outreach to best meet broad student needs.  

Students in these programs can initiate services by emailing the embedded therapists directly.  

All students are welcome to access CAPS providers for an initial visit at their convenience Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 pm or 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm on the third floor of the James A. Taylor Student Health building. 

CAPS offers a variety of support groups focused on communication and relating to others as well as workshop-style groups which teach specific skills. 

A brief screening is usually required to join a group. All groups are confidential and free for eligible CAPS users.

Some groups this spring include:

  • All in the Family
  • Men’s Group
  • KORU
  • First in the Family
  • International Students Group
  • EMERGE: BIPOC Survivors
  • Empowering Black Women

The spring groups are listed on the CAPS site, as well as in the filterable Resource Hub on the Heels Care Network (HCN).

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.”

| HealthyHeels

All of us receive feedback at some point in our academic lives that make us feel like a failure. Whether that’s an actual failing grade, a lower grade than we desired, mean-spirited academic feedback, or something else – these types of critiques can be tough to handle.

If we can reframe failure, it can serve as an opportunity to learn and inform future actions and decisions. Consider these ideas before generalizing that negative academic feedback into a feeling about yourself:

  • Grades are an instrument of an educational system that quantifies learning using a “standard” measurement for a widely diverse population of students, and grades require that learning happens in a certain amount of time. These are not essential values for educating nor learning.
  • Receiving a low grade or negative feedback happens at one moment in time. It does not change the past, nor predict the future.
  • “Failure” is not indicative of intelligence, know-how, or worth. In fact, all grades are only useful for characterizing your work on a single assignment or exam in a brief moment of your life.
  • A low grade doesn’t necessarily equate to the effort you put into an assignment, project or test…but it might (if this rubs you the wrong way, please be sure to read the next bullet point).
  • College courses are designed to take up a lot of time. If you’re stretched by life’s circumstances and challenges, a low grade is likely a sign that you’re investing time into something more important instead.
  • Receiving a low grade can feel like we’ve “wasted” our time and effort. Another choice is to explore what happened and to decide if making some changes are worth it.
  • Receiving a low grade can feel terrible. Feeling terrible does not mean that you are terrible.
  • Most people who receive a low grade also graduate.

Once you’ve reframed the situation, think about what happened. Look at the situation objectively and consider what you could have done differently. How can you improve moving forward? Who can you reach out to for help? This could include seeking out resources like those at the Learning Center, using TA or Professor office hours, or working with a study group.

Be kind to yourself. Feeling like a failure hurts, but remember that everyone fails at some point. Treat yourself with compassion and use this as a stepping stone to greater success.

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.


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.

Thanksgiving can be a time that brings up a lot of feelings for people. Be kind to yourself and the people around you!


Thanksgiving often brings up thoughts about gratitude. While just noticing your gratitude makes a difference, you can add benefit to the people around you by expressing gratitude to them. Encourage people around the dinner table to share a story of when they were grateful for someone at the meal. 

You can also write about gratitude, and jot down the little moments of your day that make you feel grateful. If you want to bring this idea to Thanksgiving, create a gratitude tree or jar for everyone to use, or write gratitude postcards to people who are far away. You could also make a collage, Reel, or TikTok to visually express gratitude

However you notice and/or share - take time this holiday to experience gratitude. 


Your family may have traditions that you invoke for Thanksgiving. Cherish the ones that bring you joy, and don't be afraid to suggest new ways of doing things this holiday to move away from activities that no longer serve you.

Remember that the history around Thanksgiving is complex. Thanksgiving can be a reminder of the genocide and violence that Native communities experienced and continue to experience. Decolonize your Thanksgiving by learning about, listening to, and celebrating Native people.


For many of us, food is central to our holiday. Try to make food a positive experience for everyone this holiday. If you talk about food, focus on the wonderful flavors of the season and gratitude for the land, workers, and chef who helped bring the food to the table. Use mindful eating strategies:

  • Stick to normal eating habits, eating consistently and mindfully throughout the day. 
  • Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you're full.
  • Be present during meals. Slow down and notice how the food tastes. Feel the pleasure and satisfaction in the eating experience.
  • Add foods, don't subtract. All foods fit into healthy eating! Consider how to add nutrient-filled and diverse foods into your body.

Health Care and Mental Health

While Campus Health is closed on Thursday 11/24 through Sunday 11/27, students may visit a local urgent care facility for health needs. Students may also call Campus Health at 919-966-2281 24/7 and be connected to UNC Nurse Connect to discuss their non-emergent health concerns. Students can call CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 for mental health support.

Don’t forget to explore the rest of the Heels Care Network for a comprehensive collection of mental health and well-being resources, including peer support, helpful articles, information about support groups, online self-assessment tools, events and more. 

May your Thanksgiving be full of experiences for which to be grateful. 

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