Due to the private nature of the mental illness, some students are not identified by name in this article.
BYU-Idaho has been hosting self-help workshops in person for many years. Because of COVID-19, these workshops have gone virtual.
Benjamin Rolph, a BYU-I counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, leads the Stress and Anxiety Management workshop. Dallas L. Johnson, Ph.D., invented and leads the FEAR-less Emotion Management workshop, which started about two years ago.
COVID-19 and the precautions that go along with it are affecting people ages 18 to 29. Within this age group, there were around 42% of people who reported having depression and 36% who reported having anxiety, according to Hartford Healthcare. At BYU-I, 65% of students report having depression and/or anxiety.
FEAR-less Emotion and Management is designed to help attendees understand how the brain and body respond to physical and emotional threats, according to the BYU-I Counseling Center website.
“It’s based upon a lot of trauma,” said Johnson. “Understanding of the neurological effects on the brain that trauma creates, and it turns out it is really useful for depression and anxiety as well.”
This workshop puts psychological terms that may be confusing to some into more simple, bite-sized pieces. For example, the Autonomic Nervous System is referred to as the “lizard brain” in these workshops. This adds a level of playfulness that can help the participants to understand why they act and react in a certain situation.
“There’s a very understandable reason that they’re having anxiety or depression and there are very simple ways to change those responses,” Johnson said. “They’re not crazy. If they’re having anxiety, all that means is that their brain is treating something that is emotionally dangerous and scary as if it is physically dangerous. We begin to help the brain differentiate between those two.”
A BYU-I student who attended this workshop said his
biggest takeaway was that there are physical changes, like posture, that could be made to positively affect one’s mental outlook.
The Stress and Anxiety Management workshop is designed to help give those who attend the tools to manage and reduce different worries or fears they may be feeling.
“Predominately (the main goal) is to empower agency,” said Rolph. “To remind people that they do have a say, that they do have a choice and that there are things that can be done based on their own volition that can make a difference. It may not be life-changing, but I’ll tell you, in the semesters that I’ve done these workshops in my own personal life, having a sense of agency empowers you to act upon the vicissitudes of life rather than be acted by them.”
Another BYU-I student who attended this workshop expressed that one of his biggest takeaways was having a routine and being consistent can create a sense of calm. Posture and what someone may be doing with their hands, whether it’s clenched or relaxed, can help people through stressful situations.
BYU-I’s Counseling Center offers individual counseling as well, but this option is only available to students living in the state of Idaho. However, workshops are available to all students and faculty through Zoom.
Another resource beyond these workshops is Therapy Assistance Online, an interactive web program. There are videos and interactive elements on the website that provide self-help, mindfulness and other resources. This is also where information from therapy sessions can be found for those who are receiving therapy to access.
According to the Counseling Center, these workshops are informational self-help classes and are not made to replace individual therapy. If you are looking for personal therapy or personal advice contact the BYU-I Counseling Center.