RSOs provide helping hand for students during finals week

By Luis Velazquez, Staff Writer

University programs and Registered Student Organizations are working to ease students’ stress before one of the hardest parts of the semester starts: finals week.

In the past, different RSOs on-campus have promoted awareness of mental health with different methods, such as Positive Illini.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, some warning signs of bad mental health include feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks, severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors and intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities. 

Positive Illini takes a different approach in advocating mental health to students, said Olivia Schifferer, graduate student in Labor and Employment Relations and president of Positive Illini. 

The RSO uses positive psychology research, presents weekly topics based on research done by executive board members and then organizes outreach events to promote positivity to the campus community.

“We wanted to take a different route by promoting it in a … more indirect way rather than looking at psychology or regular psychology, like thinking about what’s wrong with people and how do we fix it,” Schifferer said. 

According to Schifferer, Positive Illini would distribute notes and candy at the library during finals week to encourage students not to give up. However, for this semester, due to executive board transitions, Positive Illini will not be having their end-of-the-semester finals events.

Other RSOs have previously hosted events for students to relieve stress leading up to finals week. 

Ana Bermeo, senior in LAS and president of Latino Student Association, said LSA attempts to create stress-free events around finals week. 

“Our general audience is mostly freshmen, and more often than not they are first-generation (students),” Bermeo said. “We really try to push for them to have that time. We also have our study tables which give students an opportunity to relax a little more in a setting with people they are comfortable with so they don’t freak out with all the work they have to do.” 

The Stress Management Program, offered by the McKinley Health Center, also provides opportunities for students to explore stress management strategies and relaxation techniques that meet their needs. 

Yarit Alcantara, junior in LAS and one of the Stress Management Peers of the program, said they are trained under McKinley Health Center as students. The peers in this program are trained to lead workshops that teach students how to deal with stress. Topics include time management and deep breathing exercises. Alcantara said they offer “Breakaway from Stress” events on Mondays for students to relax at locations such as the Grainger Engineering Library or the Undergraduate Library.

Peers offer stress packets and also deep breathing exercises on the spot upon request.

“Say you’re at Grainger at 7 p.m., and Stress Management Peers are there,” Alcantara said. “You can go to the workshop … if you want to do a deep breathing exercise workshop. If you request it, we will do it because it won’t take long. It will take a maximum of 15 minutes.”  

Bermeo said she acknowledges the University is a big institution but wants more resources for students regarding mental health on campus.

“I feel like we can also do better,” Bermeo said. “The University does provide really good resources. I don’t think it is publicized as it should be.”

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