A practical course on mental health will be offered in the spring semester

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A therapy room at the TCU Counseling and Wellness Center in Jarvis Hall. Credit: Courtesy of Madeleine Cook

The Ohio State Department of Psychology is offering an interactive, experiential course on mental health and personal well-being this spring with the goal of introducing students to evidence-based coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety and depression.

As students grappled with the social and academic repercussions of COVID-19, adding to the emergence of increase in mental health problems in American Youth, two professors from the Department of Psychology and board-certified clinical psychologists—Dr. Jennifer Cheavens and Dr. Daniel Strunk—decided to co-teach this credit-hour course. Cheavens said this course, called Arts & Sciences 5194 Group Studies, is intended to teach coping tools through exercises and group discussions that anyone can use.

“It’s something that people can use later in their professional life, something that we as teachers use every day, and it’s something that you can use to help your friends or yourself. same,” Cheavens said.

Cheavens said the class will meet virtually on Wednesday mornings, discussing a new skill each week to help students learn how to solve their current or future problems.

Strunk said he hopes students are open to the exercises taught in the course.

“It takes an openness to experience because it’s a more experiential course than most of the ones we teach,” Strunk said. “To the extent that you can get into the exercises and try things out, even though you might have a hesitant mode about it, that’s the kind of stuff that would really help [the students] growing up.”

Strunk said the class is open to undergraduates and graduates, with specific assignments tailored to respective audiences to ensure students learn applicable skills.

Strunk said previous sections of this course had hosted around 100 students, allowing students to hear a range of different perspectives.

“There are a lot of people talking about their experiences, and you realize you’re not alone,” Strunk said. “While everyone has very different circumstances, there are difficulties that people share.”

Although the class serves as a graded course, Cheavens said students shouldn’t let the anxiety of receiving a grade discourage them from enrolling in the course.

“We’re absolutely not interested in the rating,” Cheavens said. “Homework lets you practice your skills each week and give something back to grad students who read your work.”

Spring enrollment is low, and Strunk said he believes that’s due to the course catalog’s misleading title.

“The main reason is that it’s listed in a goofy way,” Strunk said. “It’s listed as ‘Arts & Sciences 5194 Group Studies’ so nothing in the course syllabus explains what it is.”

At press time, Cheavens said there are currently around 30 students enrolled in the spring course.

Strunk said he hopes more members of the Ohio State community will show interest in the course to help strengthen student mental health.

“If a student feels like they’re fighting stress, that’s a good class,” Strunk said. “If you don’t struggle with stress, I still think it’s a good course to learn to want to be ready for the inevitable challenges in life, you can learn how to respond to those challenges.”

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