Episode 3 Part II: Mental Health and Emotional Well-being

In part two of our mental health and emotional well-being episode, Miami students Luke Koulouris, Luke Erml, and Samantha Federici chat with Dean Moore and provide their perspectives on the topic, along with some potential coping strategies for their fellow students.

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Segment takeaways

  • Takeaway #1: Mental health centers on a diagnosis, while emotional well-being encompasses the emotions we experience as a result of life.
  • Takeaway #2: As we continue to destigmatize talking about mental health, we also need to normalize the idea that negative emotions are a routine and expected part of our daily lives - they are a part of the human condition. They don’t need to be treated but instead accepted and learned from.
  • Takeaway #3: Miami has a variety of resources available to students. Counseling, financial resources, wellness programs, the Rec Center, student organizations, and more! Regardless of any perceived barriers, there are plenty of resources on campus to help you out.
  • Takeaway #4: Whether it’s through an RA, faculty member, or the Office of the Dean of Students, if you are struggling...reach out!

Episode transcript

Ben Williams [00:24:58] Hi. My name's Ben Williams, and I'm the assistant dean of student and producer of the We Need to Talk podcast. In the second conversation today, you'll hear Dr. Kimberly Moore, our dean of students and three students, talk about mental health, emotional well-being, and what we can all do to take better care of ourselves in this area. 

Kimberly Moore [00:25:16] This conversation today is really about your perspective as students and as members of Generation Z. So really the conversation. Everywhere I go as the dean of students, when I'm dealing with students, staff, faculty, parents, even alumni. The conversation around young people's mental health right now dominates our conversations. There's an incredible amount of concern. There's incredible amount of passion and interest in this topic. I want to start a conversation, and we've already begun that with Dr. Steve Large. I want to start a conversation about the distinction between what mental health is and what emotional well-being is for our students. And so why don't we start when you hear mental health, can you each define what that means to you? And we'll start with Samantha. 

Samantha Federici [00:26:15] To me, mental health means kind of like a complete state of like well-being, emotional, psychological and the like, socially even. It's how we think, feel and act, I would say. And it kind of determines how we, like, react to outside stresses in our life, like give or not, emotionally and mentally, like healthy, then we're going to react differently than we were. BE If we were emotionally healthy and kind of like how that relates to others and like making healthy choices in life, kind of just like the holistic emotional healthiness, it's hard to do. 

Kimberly Moore [00:26:49] It is. And that's why we're having the conversation. So when I ask you to define what emotional well-being is for that differently. 

Samantha Federici [00:26:56] Yeah, for me at least is like the particular emotions and it's not really like as holistic, I guess at least that's how I see it. It's more like what I'm feeling. Whereas like mental health is like the holistic, like how it interacts with you and how it like affects you in your life. 

Kimberly Moore [00:27:13] Got it. How about you? Luke E? 

Luke E. [00:27:17] Yeah, I'd say mental health would be kind of related to physical health. It's how healthy you are in that state of mind. And I'd say emotional wellness is a factor that can greatly affect the affected. There's a bunch of different factors that I would say that could be listed that could affect your mental health. But I would almost say emotional wellness is a subset of mental health. 

Kimberly Moore [00:27:40] Mm hmm. I agree. Luke K?

Luke K. [00:27:42] Luke K. Just essentially took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to say mental health is just kind of the overarching, you know, the mental wellbeing of things. And then I would say emotional wellbeing would be a subset of I think emotional wellbeing is, as Samantha said, a lot of your feelings and you know, what's going on in that moment while mental health is is everything, that's everything that's happening. 

Kimberly Moore [00:28:06] Yeah, and I agree with everything that you all had shared. And the distinction isn't really talked about on our campus. Everything sort of put under this big umbrella. And professionals, strangers and folks who are here to support the student experience. Mental health refers to actual diagnoses, clinical term. So when you are talking about your physical health and maybe something that ails you, you go to a doctor to get that diagnosis and then get the treatment and the proper care. Right. And so just like Luke, what you had said earlier is it's, you know, the other side of the coin, basically, right? You've got your physical wellness and then your and your physical health and then you've got your your mental health. But when we talk about it, we are talking about going to a doctor or going to a therapist and getting a mental health diagnosis. And that is what we refer to as mental health. And so what I have found is that there's sometimes a communication gap between students who are articulating what they believe is going on and the help that they need, or they're just reaching out to peers and talking about stuff that's that's concerning them and that bring getting them down, things like that. And when we try to get them the resources, sometimes there's a there's a stopping point from bridging that gap to mental health providers and resources. So it's really important that we kind of dial this in and use shared language and come at this so that we can appropriately have the resources to in which students can access when they're in need. And that could be when a student is sad because of a contextual situation, a situation let's say they broke up with a significant other or their partner and they're sad about that. Sometimes students use the language, I'm depressed, but depression is actually a clinical diagnosis, right? Sometimes students feel like they've got a ton of exams and they're all in the same week and they've got papers and there's a lot coming at them and their friends need them. And there's this obligation in my organization and there's a lot coming at them and they're feeling overwhelmed, but sometimes they're like, I'm, I have anxiety and there's a difference because anxiety is actually a clinical diagnosis, right? And so sometimes when everything is talked about from a mental health lens, sometimes it's bigger and more concerning than it actually needs to be. It's normal in life to have lots of different emotions up and down and contextual emotions in response to something that happened in your life. But if we contextualize everything as mental health, then students think it's more serious than it is, and they think that there's something, quote unquote, wrong with them. So talk to me about how this is sitting with you and what your thoughts are about that. 

Luke K. [00:31:13] So I think you make a couple of great points there in terms of how we are often describing emotions as diagnoses instead of emotions and not diagnoses. So I think there's definitely a difference between having anxiety and being anxious, and I think that's something that we really need to focus on, is it's okay to be down, it's okay to be overwhelmed, and it's okay to be anxious because that means you care about school, about life, about your partner, and you have an attachment to something. So I think understanding those feelings and feeling those feelings can honestly provide a lot of insight into what's going on. 

Kimberly Moore [00:31:53] And the reason why I bring this up and I wanted to have this conversation we think it's such an important one to have on the podcast is because I think normalization for struggle is incredibly important. Our young people are lonely and they're isolating and they are suffering in many, many ways because they think that they're the only ones who are carrying this dissonance, right, for whatever reason is in their life. And they very well may have actual clinical diagnoses. Right. And mental health issues going on, or it might just be the rollercoaster of life and the emotions that are attached to that. And if we can baseline some of this information for our students and they can feel less alone in navigating that and we can rightsize some of this distress that our students are feeling, we can actually have the right resources at the right time for the right students. And I think that that is really, really important. So let's talk about how does the Miami culture support mental health and well-being? And now that we know the distinction, sort of help me out with that as you as you speak to it. 

Luke E. [00:33:12] Well, I just think as a college institution in general, there's an overarching feeling of stress just as a baseline. I really do think as a medium sized college, we have a lot of advantages over big and small colleges in the sense that it can be more personal without you feeling like you have no no one to relate to. If you catch what I'm going down, not in a big college. There's no way you can relate to people, but there's no one that's going to be there best. You don't really care too much, too many people. So on and so forth. Small colleges. You might not be able to find people that you relate to. So I really think that Miami culture as a mid-sized college has a lot of benefits for mental health and wellness for students here. Not that I think Luka offered a great point. The community of Miami allows there to be a lot of support for one another. You know, coming from high school to college, we didn't have a lot of this mental health direction in school. So I'm glad that there are resources here, therapists and things like that, to provide the support necessary for people who need it. 

Samantha Federici [00:34:24] Yeah, one thing that I like to point out this relates to like my personal struggle is like an LLC and being like a first year student. Even in my residence hall, I was able to find like a smaller. It's such a larger institution, and I really liked how I was able to like, connect to those students like Luke. But the LLC really did provide like a place that I was able to kind of feel connected. And then there's also just different levels of like kind of seriousness here on campus, like you have for like mental health. You have the therapist and you have the therapy dogs and the student health center. But then like for like emotional well-being, you have those student orgs on campus that are like a little bit less serious and kind of focus on other factors of emotional well-being. So there are a lot of resources on campus that I think promote like mental health awareness and like making sure the student body is well cared for. 

Kimberly Moore [00:35:17] I love hearing that from you all. I really am confident that Miami has all the right resources for our students. I can really stand in confidence. Their challenges, sometimes getting the right resource to the right student at the right time to navigate that. And we started the wellness navigator sororities that were twice that was not on purpose, but we started the wellness Navigator to help students know have a starting point and seeing what they needed specifically. And so I love I love that you all feel that what would be some resources that emotional wellbeing component is just something come to mind for you all that are resources for that emotional well-being you started to talk about a little bit, Samantha, with the orgs and the small community. 

Luke K. [00:36:02] I think one of the resources that we might not think about as a mental health resource and that emotional wellbeing is the gym. We have a great we have a big gym, we have, you know, many classes and things like that. And exercise has been proven many times to help with mental health and emotional wellbeing. And I also think Samantha highlighted a great point about the about the organizations because there are different needs that we all need, we need. So we need to be loved. We need to have social connections, we need to have all those. And I think that an organization, especially mental health and emotional wellbeing organization, can provide those necessary needs that us humans desire. 

Kimberly Moore [00:36:43] Connection, right. Yeah. You know, there are eight dimensions of wellness. I won't go through all of them, but emotional and physical and intellectual or mental are all separate parts of that. Right. And then you have financial, you have spiritual, You have, you know, these other dimensions. Right? We are holistic beings. And I think when we are talking about that emotional well-being, the physical outlets are critically important. We have a ton of organizations that can help develop the spiritual connection that can also be helpful for students. For some students, we have, you know, a lot of times distress and emotional distress can be about scarcity of resources related to financial. So we have a lot of resources to help students manage financial concerns. So emotional well-being can be compromised by what's going on in class. And maybe you're not doing as well. We have a tutoring center. We have Rinella, Right? So what I'm getting at is so critically important for students to be able to reflect on what's going on and ultimately access those supports. That aren't always the counseling center right, because that's not always what you need. I just said earlier, you know, I. I wish it wasn't raining. I could use a walk right now. You know, some of this is just right there. But students don't always connect the dots in the framing of it because everything is mental health all the time with our language. Right. You know, one thing that I absolutely love about being at Miami, our students demonstrate so much care for one another when it comes to mental health and and just being down. So many of my conversations are for students advocating for their peers, you know, or reaching out and saying, you know what, my friend's really struggling and I'm at the end of what I can help with. You know, it's time to tag in some of these other supports that are across campus. And I see that. But do you as students feel that students are looking out for each other in this in this particular context? 

Luke E. [00:38:49] I was going to say that if you're in a community. So going on what we were saying earlier and reducing earlier is that, you know, finding your sense of community here and finding whether that's an organization, a friend group. That's where I think a situation where someone will easily recognize that maybe someone's been off a little bit for a couple of weeks and going along with QPR certified the training there could help someone recognize those sorts of distress signals. So that's that's a big thing is I think that when people are involved in that sense of community, it's easy, easy or for someone to recognize them that this person's going through a struggle or this person needs some help more than I can hope. So I think a community is a big factor in that. 

Samantha Federici [00:39:35] And I always like say like students doing Non-Student thing. So finding like some friends to like, go outside, go for a walk, go to the gym, maybe go uptown, do something up there, just getting out of that academic and maybe stress causing like environment that you are constantly bombarded with. It kind of feels like sometimes by Thursday or Friday, like we're just like, I don't know if we can make it to the weekend, like at least for the people that I talk about, but knowing and having those nonacademic things to do and look forward to really helps to like bounce out. 

Kimberly Moore [00:40:07] For students who I completely agree. And we're going to have some takeaways at the end of this. And so I think a key takeaway from that is connection and community. You're absolutely right. More people who know you are, the more people who can help you and get you connected. Some of our students have a hard time making connections and are feeling lonely and are struggling, finding that place and that community. Do you have advice for them about what they could do to try and find some connection, even if a real small group? 

Luke K. [00:40:41] I think we often hear from our professors or therapists or whoever. It's like you're not alone. I think we as students need to say, you are not alone. We're with you. We're a peer along with you. We have the same majors. We have the same goals. I'm here with you, not someone who has a different job or whatever. People understanding that there are other students that are there for them and trying to join an organization, especially a mental health organization, can really help students gain that connection and gain that support and really meet that need of of social connection. 

Kimberly Moore [00:41:14] I love that. 

Luke E. [00:41:14] I was just going to add that, you know, you've got to put yourself out there. That's a that's a big part of it all is joining a community. You can't do that by, you know, not bring yourself out. You've got to be a little bit more mindful. You got to put yourself out there. And it does take risks to join a community. You know, oh, will I be accepted? Will I not sort of thing. But you never know until you try. And you've got to kind of put yourself out there to find your people. 

Samantha Federici [00:41:37] And I kind of like starting small, like just asking people, like maybe in your class or maybe in your residence hall or your, like apartment building, like starting in a community that you're going to be surrounded by those same people because we are automatically given these communities of our classes and other places where we live. So it's like we are going to be surrounded by them already is might as well make a community out of it and make make that place feel like a home. 

Kimberly Moore [00:42:02] Yeah, I do think that finding affinity and shared interest is the perfect way to start because even if you're into something really different or niche or unique, right, there's somebody else on this campus who might be into it too. And that's a good way to start. I tell my young children, all you need is one friend to start, you know, and then it can go from there. It can be challenging, though. I mean, talk to me about this post pandemic resistance to taking risk. So, Luke, you talked about taking a risk. Put yourself out there. I think sometimes that's easier said than done for some students who've been didn't have the opportunities in high school because they were supposed to stay in their parents basement and we're in a small cluster and didn't have these opportunities to take social risks and low stake environments. And now they're at college and they're not practiced. So what do you say to those folks to that? 

Luke E. [00:43:00] I would say now you've got to kind of just reflect back to 2019, take it back a few years and put yourself out there. I would say one resource that is available that has a lot of information for things like this would be the hub. You know, you can find all these different clubs on there. You can investigate what is for you, what's not for you. From there you can just click as pressing a button, sign up for a club, you know, an email list and then drop to some events. You don't like it, you don't like it, you love it. Love it. 

Kimberly Moore [00:43:31] Right? The Hub is a great resource for finding connection. There's so many interests and they're not all mainstream. I think there's a myth and lucky you can speak to this. I think you're the only one Greek here. I think that there's a myth that this campus is dominated by those that are affiliated with Greek life, and I don't think that's true. There's lots of people that's not the only interest point. It's a interest point. Sure. But it's not the only one. There's so many clubs and organizations. Can you all share a little bit about the groups that you know exist that are real small and not maybe as as large as Greek life? 

Luke K. [00:44:10] So if you don't mind if I don't mind showing my own club here, I'm part of Miami Hope, which is a we are a very small organization. We have a small executive board and a fairly small general body. We're trying to grow, but we're a suicide prevention organization looking to help other students on campus. And then I'm also I just joined another organization called Delta Epsilon Me It's a pretty health fraternity, so it's Greek, but it's not social. That's a very different organization compared to Miami, because, you know, Delta Epsilon used much bigger and much larger. So I get the best of both worlds. 

Samantha Federici [00:44:45] I'll also shout out my organization's stances. Miles, we have a fairly small board and we are trying to reach out to more members. But that's really great because we're able to kind of form connections with our members and build lasting relationships with them. They we're always like welcoming to new members. And then I also recently joined Wish upon a Star, which volunteers with the Runaways model of college and they, like raise money and go to the Ronald McDonald House to dress up for children. I'm really excited looking forward to that. And that one I know is also super smoke. 

Luke E. [00:45:15] And I'd like to give a quick shout out to Mission 34. Not a organization that I'm actively involved in, but I have a few friends that are involved in that and their goal and purpose is to try to fight the stigma of mental health and also promote some QPR education. 

Kimberly Moore [00:45:31] And there's so many more on the Hub. Let's talk a little bit about responsibility. And so this is a great conversation that I regularly have with students, faculty, staff, parents. A lot of people have different understanding of where the responsibility lies is for as far as our students are concerned and their mental mental health. So from your perspective, where does the responsibility lie? Is it with the individual student to reach out, ask for help, speak up? Is it the community's job to to pay attention and to notice? Is it faculty's job? Is it staff and the university's job and responsibility to know when a student needs resources? So how does that break down from your perspective as far as what is responsibility look like around this issue? 

Samantha Federici [00:46:26] I think this question is kind of hard to answer and you guys can jump in if you don't agree. But I think mental health and kind of that struggle is so normalized in today's society. I see a lot of social media people kind of making a joke out of their struggles and they're like kind of having that mental health. It's so normalized in our culture that we kind of brush over it and we make jokes about doing this or like harming ourselves or I'm going to like, like I'm going to say it, but I don't like when people say I'm going to kill myself because that really is sensitive to like other people who may be struggling and they don't realize it. So I think it's really hard to say where the responsibility lies because people our age should brush that over so they don't really feel the responsibility until they are struggling, until they don't know when to reach out for help. And then it's almost too late. And then that's where the conflict of responsibility comes in because it was on the student for so long. But then since it's normalized in our culture, then people like an outside viewpoint kind of feel like it's their responsibility. Because if you get what I'm trying to say, it's kind of hard to know. 

Kimberly Moore [00:47:37] I think you're doing a great job. I think you're right. I think there's a fine line between normalizing something so much we deprive what we do, prioritize it or we underrated or we it's it's everywhere in our culture, it becomes ubiquitous and we stop paying attention. I mean, there is a line, right? And so it's important to destigmatize it. It's important to legitimize this and normalize that. People aren't struggling alone, but it's important not to devalue the intensity of some of these acts of desperation and pain. 

Luke K. [00:48:11] I think Samantha made some great points. I also agree I don't like it when people say I'm going to kill myself, because usually that usually not always, but the people who say that are often the ones who aren't going through as much as compared to someone else. So if someone's suicidal when they hear that, it hits deep. 

Kimberly Moore [00:48:29] But language is important. So you're bringing up another really, really good point. You know, that's part of the culture question that I asked earlier. You know, Miami is a subset culture. It's a micro culture of our macro society. Right. And ultimately, I think we do have to be careful about what we perpetuate in our own culture. And there is there is this balance to the normalization push around mental health. And we ought to be careful what we say. And my my question about the responsibility component of this was a bit leading, because really the idea is that I think when we have a community and we have a campus that everybody plays a role. And I think it's critically important that this is a shared responsibility across the board. If you see something, say something. If you're struggling, ask for help. Raise your hand. Reach out, because we won't know otherwise. And the university has a responsibility in having the right resources for our students in both their emotional well-being and their mental health. And we have to keep the conversation going between students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni to make sure that we're evolving with the needs of our students. And so to wrap our conversation, my question to you is, what do you want your peers to know about mental health or their emotional well-being while being a student here at Miami? 

Luke K. [00:49:56] I think the big thing coming from research was talking about it. I would say if you're down, you know, as you mentioned, if you if you're sad, if you if you are depressed, if you are questioning your emotions, talk to someone. And it's okay whether you're a guy girl, straight, not straight, black, white. Mental health doesn't discriminate. It it happens to everyone. And it's okay if you're if you're a big jock lifter, it's okay. It doesn't make you weak. And I think that's a big thing is you're not weak for reaching out. I think it makes you a stronger person. 

Kimberly Moore [00:50:30] I love that. Thank you. 

Luke E. [00:50:31] Just to add that, I mean, reaching out, very important and getting that communication. And I really think that I know we touched on this earlier, is that sense of community. You've got to find your purpose and you've got to find the people that surround you and have your back. You know, I really do think that in college that's a core part of it. And you got to put yourself out there. 

Samantha Federici [00:50:53] Yeah. And what I would tell people is that mental health is another part of our health, just as important, if not more important than our physical health. And we need to care for it and we need to check up on it sometimes and get that help when we are struggling. Like Luke K. said, just because you are reaching out, you are not we. It's okay to not be okay because mental health matters and it's just another part of our like holistic aspect of health that we need to care for in order to be healthy and functioning and doing our best in college. 

Kimberly Moore [00:51:24] We have the hope line and we'll put it at the end of our podcast. We'll put it up there. If you need help, reach out, speak up. That's the first line of defense for sure. If you're lonely, take a risk. Check out the Hub. Any final thoughts on maybe one thing each of you do to take care of your emotional well-being? One thing. One thing that you do. Samantha, we'll start with you. 

Samantha Federici [00:51:49] One thing that I do is I read not academic books. Reading really helps me de-stress. And I kind of like getting into a different world when I'm reading a book. So that's what I do.

Luke E. [00:51:59] I love it. I always like to go on a run or work out. I think really just getting your mind of off the focus of in your head and more just on what's around you to walk in the park, get outside. I think that helps a lot.

Luke K. [00:51:59] Similar to Luke E. I mean, one thing I do is I try to work out and then also hanging out with friends last night and we just sat down and played some poker for a couple hours and and that's nice to do. So I think anything to get you out of school, out of academia is can definitely help. 

Kimberly Moore [00:52:27] Yes. It's so important to find your outlets, find your connection points, and don't hold it all in. It comes out eventually in some way, shape or form. And we got to take care of emotional well-being and our mental health. And they are distinct and different. I appreciate your time today, your insights, your thoughtfulness and your contributions to the conversation and this topic on campus. So thank you so very much.

Our conversation with Dr. Steve Large and the students gave us some valuable insights on the distinction between mental health and emotional well-being. The discussion also shed light on how we can show care for each other in times of distress. I'm regularly inspired by the community of care here at Miami, and this discussion only reaffirmed that for me.

So let's recap the key takeaways we gathered from this conversation.

Number one, mental health centers on a diagnosis. While emotional well-being encompasses the emotions we experience as a result of life.

Number two, while reducing the stigma of talking about mental health challenges is important and commendable, it can perpetuate the idea that negative emotions are conditioned to be treated. As we continue to destigmatize talking about mental health. We also need to normalize that negative emotions are a routine and expected part of our daily lives. They are part of the human condition. They don't need to be treated but rather accepted and learned from.

Number three, Miami has a variety of resources available, whether they are counseling, financial resources, wellness programs, the rec center, student organizations and more that are available to you to ensure you can get support regardless of any potential barriers.

And finally, takeaway for whether it is an R.A., a faculty member, or the office of the Dean of Students. If you are struggling, reach out. As referenced earlier in both conversations, I want to highlight the helpline at 855-249-5649. Never hesitate to reach out if you need help. 24 seven. It's there for all students all the time. We appreciate you listening. My team and I are here to support you and look forward to our next conversation.