Peer support offered to University of Arizona students in distress

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 10:37 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona is ramping up its mental health supports. A program, launched on Monday, August 31, is helping students “rise” up, together.

“I can definitely see how people are struggling right now,” said Ryan Jaramillo, a sophomore student.

It’s not the university experience he anticipated, but Jaramillo plans to make the most of it.

With classes still fully online, Jaramillo says there is an added level of anxiety.

“Probably fitting in; that can be pretty stressful,” he said. “Balancing school, your academic and social life.”

Dr. Amy Athey says this is a normal reaction to an abnormal school year. High unemployment rates, social distance, and fears over the virus itself can cause students to feel overwhelmed, the Chief Wellness Officer said.

“Many of our students are also dealing with the stress that comes with racial injustice,” said Athey. “We know the mental health demands from large scale incidents are greater than the physical health demands.”

So, the university launched “Wildcats R.I.S.E.”, which stands for Resilience in Stressful Events.

“It is a psychological first aid program that is delivered through a peer-to-peer model,” Athey said.

Just like C.P.R., Athey says this type of first aid can save lives, too. 24 students certified in psychological first aid started offering virtual support groups this week. The university plans to hold 12 sessions a week.

“It’s not a psychological treatment or intervention,” Athey said. “But rather, an opportunity to provide support and skills to help cope with the demands students are facing.”

“Having another support system, you feel like you’re not alone,” said Sammi Lacey, a sophomore student.

“I think that’s pretty huge,” Jaramillo said.

The R.I.S.E. sessions are free and open to all students. Those who are in crisis, needing a psychologist or greater support, will be connected to those resources. For more information, click HERE.

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