Futureproof Focus Podcast: Top Health and Wellness Tips for College Students

September 13, 2022 Podcasts

In this month’s episode, “Top Health and Wellness Tips for College Students,” Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast Futureproof Focus, sat down with her colleagues, Dr. Stacey Dutil, director of counseling and wellness, and Omari Wright, athletics Coordinator, for a candid discussion about the mental health of today’s college students and how Vaughn is helping its students stay well, both mentally and physically.

Students’ outlook is looking up

Despite the ongoing mental health and wellness issues reported by students across college campuses, both Dr. Dutil and Wright agree they are seeing an improvement at Vaughn, post-pandemic. “Vaughn students are resilient,” said Dutil. “There’s less stigma surrounding mental health today, as students are more open to talk about it.” And when it comes to diversity, Vaughn has a unique population of students which sets it apart from other college campuses. From first-generation college students and veterans to single parents and those juggling full-time jobs, Vaughn students have their own set of challenges to cope with. “Overall, (post-pandemic) we’re seeing our students’ ability to be more social, and that has a huge impact on their mental health.,” Dr. Dutil said.

What is “imposter syndrome?”

Dr. DeVivo raises the question about “imposter syndrome” as a real challenge that students are facing. This is especially for students who are entering fields dominated by those different from themselves. Thoughts such as, ‘I don’t belong here,’ or ‘You have to see it to be it,’ are sparking conversation to do a better job at demonstrating that everyone is credible and qualified. Fields such as engineering and technology, for example, are male dominated—and predominantly white. For students who don’t fit this profile—but have passion for the field—Dr. Dutil said it’s important to encourage them to build a supportive network through mentorships and clubs and societies with people who look like them and who understand their experience. “It makes a huge difference,” Dr. Dutil said.

Athletic Coordinator Wright weighed in on the topic with a unique angle. “I use athletics to teach life,” said Wright. “It’s about teamwork and working with people from different backgrounds. You have to grow through it and create a community of encouragement and positive energy to find purpose and a sense of belonging with people who look like you.”

How Vaughn is helping students

As Director of Counseling and Wellness at Vaughn for the past four years, Dr. Dutil said helping students of diverse cultures is all about speaking a universal language. “You have to meet people where they are,” she said. “It’s all about building a rapport and having a conversation. When you sit them down, their fear and shame go away.” Here are some of the ways the counseling and wellness department helps Vaughn students:

  • Food pantry: Meet the basic needs of students without any barriers.
  • Case management: Help students with issues such as housing and benefits.
  • Wellness committee: Colleagues collaborate to identify students who have challenges and take a holistic approach to helping them.
  • Residence life: Work with students who may be under distress about being away from home.
  • Guest speakers: Book guest speakers who address wellness and mental health issues.
  • Wellness challenge: Organize fun events to keep students engaged.

From a sports perspective, Wright organized several programs to keep students physically and mentally fit. Here are some of the ways he accomplishes this:

  • Virtual world wellness programs: Organizing boot camps and yoga sessions (women only) to help students with self-expression.
  • Recreational programs: E-sports is a popular platform where students can find areas where they fit in to explore their own talents.

Women’s Warrior Program

Created by Wright, this program was inspired by his mother, who raised him and his three siblings as a single parent. “I wanted to create a stronger infrastructure around women—a community outside of athletics,” he said. It’s based around the notion that: “There’s nothing I can’t do if given the opportunity to do so.” Wright believes: “If you want to go fast through life, then you go by yourself, but if you want to go far in life, then you go with a team.” Here are the highlights and goals of the Women’s Warrior Program for the 2022-2023 school year:

  • Galvanize school spirit: Help different departments create a buzz and awareness of campus events.
  • Get experience and work in different departments: Get your foot in the door and gain experience to include on your résumé.
  • Community service: Get Vaughn’s name out in the community and surround people with positivity. Helps students become well-rounded and gain experience to put on their résumés.

Wellness tips for students

As the fall semester kicks off, Dr. Dutil and Wright are excited to share some of their best wellness tips to prepare students for a great school year ahead.

Dr. Dutil: Be proactive about your mental health and wellness.

  • Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis. Come see us early and get to know us and our services.
  • Have a contingency plan—Preparing for Plan B is always a good idea. You never want to take for granted how things will turn out. Having a contingency plan can help reduce stress and get you to refocus.

Wright: Success is a planned event.

  • Networking can help you find where you belong.
  • Staying active every day helps with your mental and physical well-being. Setting small goals leads to large victories.

Dr. DeVivo concluded the conversation with a tip of her own: “Believe in yourself. You’re way more resilient than you think you are.”

You can watch the podcast in its entirety here.

Read more about how to stay mentally healthy in college here. Feeling a little stressed? Read about how to find your balance here.