In this episode, Jonathan Eigenmann interviews the Director of Wellness at NC State University, Shannon DuPree. Shannon DuPree is sitting down with Jonathan Eigenmann today to talk about the mental health and substance use challenges going on today. She will also talk about the training itself and the details behind how identifying, understanding, and responding to these challenges can help participants involved in the training save a life.
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Jonathan Eigenmann 00:00
The views and opinions expressed during Eye on the Triangle do not represent WKNC or NC State Student Media. Your dial is currently tuned to Eye on the Triangle on WKNC 88.1 FM HD one, thanks for listening. Much attention has been brought to the forefront recently regarding the attention to mental health and substance use challenges especially in terms of athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles. These challenges do not just affect our athletes and popular celebrities, it is something that is dealt with every day by 1000s of people. Some are not even aware of it, while others deny its existence. These facts and recent events have led North Carolina State University to a major news initiative to train 10,000 students, faculty, staff and campus police across the state in Mental Health First Aid. Participants are trained to recognize early warning signs of mental health challenges or substance use issues and offer initial help and support. This is why I'm sitting down with Shannon DuPree, the director of wellness here at NC State. She graduated the participants are trained to recognize early warning signs of mental health challenges or substance use issues and offer initial help and support. That is why today I am sitting down with Shannon DuPree, the director of wellness here at NC State. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Education and Promotion at North Carolina Central University, as well as a Master of Public Administration at Strayer University, and a Doctor of Health Science Health services slash Allied Health slash Health Sciences General at Nova Southeastern University. She's sitting down with me today to talk about the mental health and substance use challenges going on today. She will also talk about the training itself and the details behind how identifying understanding and responding to these challenges can help participants involved in a training save a life. Director Dupree, welcome to Eye on the Triangle.
Shannon DuPree 01:52
Thank you for having me. Pleasure.
Jonathan Eigenmann 01:56
First things first, could you just tell the audience a little bit about your role here at NC State like what you do and all and what you covered on all the stuff?
Shannon DuPree 02:04
Sure. My name is Shannon DuPree, I am the Director of Wellness with Wellness and Recreation. And so my role on campus is I work with partners across campus to lead our university wide wellness efforts. So that includes wellness programs for students, faculty, and staff.
Jonathan Eigenmann 02:27
And then let's get into what we're talking about today is, I guess, have you heard many athletes, as of recently have been bringing awareness to mental health as a real issue that's being thrown under the rug in today's society? Like the stigma against ticket seeking help, the bravado being masculine, all that stuff? Why do you think that these challenges on mental health and substance substance use have not been getting the attention that it deserves?
Shannon DuPree 02:53
Well, I think, although I think we have made some progress in terms of reducing the stigma around mental health and substance use, I do think there's still a ways to go. For some reason, some people view asking, seeking help or acknowledging that you're struggling as a sign of weakness, and it's not that at all. And so I think the more we can normalize seeking help, the more we can normalize, saying like, "I am not okay, I am not well," the more we will continue to reduce that stigma. So I think that is a challenge that we all face is that we have to be open to having those discussions, being transparent about our own experiences, but also creating spaces for people to be able to share. So I think the more we do that, the more we'll be able to, to just create that normalcy around that I think we fall into patterns of often fall into patterns of toxic positivity, where like, no matter what's happening, we'll say, everything is fine, everything's gonna be okay. And there's just not real life. So we need to normalize people saying I am not okay and then those people being able to seek help and not feeling judgment when they share it with their friends or family, their professors. So it's all about creating those spaces where people feel safe enough to share.
Jonathan Eigenmann 04:19
And then I feel like one of the reasons why this is a major issue because accessibility of people, students, especially in college, even in high school, and you know, lower levels of education, talk about their challenges with others due to fear and embarrassment. How do you feel the campus has done in being in a helping hand to students on campus?
Shannon DuPree 04:39
Again, there's always room for improvement, but I think some of the things that we do really well is you know, a part of my role I talked about working with partners across campus. So in Wellness and Recreation, we work very closely with Student Health, with the Counseling Center, with Prevention Services, with NC State Dining, with Student Conduct. All these different pieces because we can't operate in silos. So I think what we've done really well is really figuring out what's happening in each of these spaces and departments, what resources are available, so that we can best serve our students. So if a student is in is at wellness and recreation, and they say, "hey I need help, I need to speak to a therapist," then I'm able to help them navigate those resources versus saying, "oh, well, you're going to go down the street, you're going to make a left, you're going to ask for this person or call this number," and then people feel passed around. So I think we've done a really good job of connecting some of the dots and then on the backend, we're able to refer students where they need to be. Um, so that's something I think we do really well. I also think that more and more services related to mental health are being added on campus. Prevention Services has a ton of drop in spaces, as well as they do a lot of outreach. Our team does a lot of outreach at Wellness and Recreation. We offer wellness coaching, which is a free service for students where you can work with someone to set wellness goals, and it could be around sleep, time management, stress management and other things. And our wellness coaches really serve as like navigators, and they can help you really navigate the different resources that are available. So I think we've been able to kind of identify some of the things that we need. On campus. Another thing is Mental Health First Aid, that's something that we thought was a priority, because of the growing mental health concerns on campus and nationally, we thought like, okay, how can we empower everyone on campus to feel like, they can not only help themselves, but help someone else and be a resource for someone else. And so we thought mental health first day was a way to do that. Um, so I think continuing to stay abreast of the different resources that are out there and then when appropriate, bringing those things to our campus.
Jonathan Eigenmann 06:56
And then obviously, there's many factors that contribute to cases of mental illnesses, and obviously, extreme cases of suicides. Many, one factor such as COVID, COVID, has been, has been reported on many news sites a huge factor when it comes to mental health, because just being able to communicate with people other than just no one's in your family, or, you know, not being around people, what other factors do you have you seen or anything? Um, in the past, or even now, just what factors have you seen in teens and college students that contribute to this, these cases?
Shannon DuPree 07:35
Well, I do think COVID has played a role in it. I think it was, you know, people fit it, enhance those, some of the feelings that may have already been there, right. So not having a sense of belonging, feeling isolated and alone, those things were taken to new heights during COVID-19. Because people weren't able to be with their friends and do some of the things that they enjoy. But then I also think it was stressful, it was frightening. So all those things were really again, taken to new levels but in addition to that, I think just regular challenges of, of stress of, you know, sadness, people are dealing with trauma and sometimes when those things aren't discussed openly, when people don't seek help, and you try to just continue going on with your daily routine, it just adds to it. So each day, if I'm already dealing with trauma, and then something else causes me stress, or I'm not able to get a lot of sleep, I'm just not feeling good. I'm not feeling like myself, and then I choose to isolate from my friends. So that has nothing to do with COVID-19. But those are challenges that many, many students were already facing. And so that I think you throw in a global pandemic, it only makes things worse. So again, I think it's all about identifying those challenges. And then when something arises, immediately creating a plan to address those issues, it's not going to be as quickly as okay, I'm stressed, I have big finals coming up, I have a big project I'm working on I'm really stressed out about it. I'm not gonna I'm isolating from my friends, I'm not able to work out, I'm not eating, I'm not sleeping properly. Um, so those things kind of just add up. But when those things pop up, immediately coming out with a plan of okay, let me reach out to a counselor, let me reach out to a wellness coach. Sometimes it's let me reach out to all of these services and work at work on all of them at one time. There's no wrong way to do that. The most important thing is to not fall into that trap of toxic positivity and saying like, Oh, it's okay. It will be okay. It may be okay but it won't hurt to talk to someone it won't hurt to see what resources are available to try to help yourself in those moments. So I think just normal daily life, their stress that comes with that their challenges that just happened in life. And so those things happen but when they when they aren't addressed, and then something else happened on top of it, it only makes things worse.
Jonathan Eigenmann 10:11
So I'm gonna move on to the training, as you, as you mentioned a little bit before to Mental Health First Aid training, all that's recently come to NC State, what makes it only last eight hours to do and does the fact of being at no charge, give it more appeal, or do you feel like it's it just expresses the importance of people just actually participating in the training to learn how to deal with these cases that come up.
Shannon DuPree 10:35
So it's eight hours, and that can be done in one full day, it's actually two hours of pre work. So actually six hours either virtually, on virtually or in person, and so six hours in person, or that can be broken up over two days. So it could be two three hour sessions. And so that's what it takes what they recommend that you redo the training every three years but the training includes identifying common signs and symptoms of mental illness, common signs and symptoms of substance use, how to interact with persons in crisis, and how to connect people with help. Like, that's a broad overview of what that includes, I think the most important message with that training that we want people to realize is, no matter who you are, no matter what you do, you have an opportunity to save a life. I you often think about first aid and you think about physical first aid, right? If someone has an injury, you're gonna give them you're gonna administer CPR, you'll give them a bad day, like, you know, these things to do. But if someone is having a mental health crisis, we most of the time don't know what to do, where to start, who to call, and so this training helps you to really kind of come up with some some tools and best practices for if you or someone you know, is experiencing some of those signs and symptoms, what do you do in that case? So that's, that's a snapshot of the training, the no cost, we got, we are really, really fortunate that at the same time, we were coming up with this plan on our campus, the UNC system in August also realized, like, okay, there's not, there are things happening throughout the state on all of our campuses, how can we support the campuses, and so they provided funding, they were awarded funding for a grant. And they're trying to train 10,000 people across the state over the course of a year. So they are moving forward with their plan. And then we're moving forward with our plan to train instructors. So on our campus, we have 25 trained instructors that will be administering these courses over the course of the year. And that's in collaboration with the project that we did that train 16. And then the other nine people that were trained through the UNC system program. So we were able to kind of bring all those people together, we've created a plan for our campus for the year, the UNC system is going to cover the cost of any course materials, because our numbers obviously help support that goal of training 10,000 people in the state. So we're really fortunate that way, because that might have created a barrier, we want to reach as many people as possible, we want to reach colleges, departments, student organizations, athletics. And so if you don't have the barrier of worrying about course materials, then there's really, as long as you can identify the time we have the people, we have the resources, there really is no excuse. And I do agree that it just, it just lets people know that it's an institutional priority, it is a statewide priority and so hopefully, that message is shared around campus that hey, whether you sign up for a course, on your own, because we have some open right now. Or if you want your department or your college to to sign up and we bring that to a specific group, we can also do that. So hopefully we have an option available that will work for every one on campus.
Jonathan Eigenmann 14:01
And then, I guess was let's dive a little bit deeper into the training. Could you give an example what you guys do on the training and how it can help someone who may have gone through mental and substance use challenges?
Shannon DuPree 14:12
Sure. So again, it's it's a pretty it's a lot of its presentations, just sharing information on that I mentioned about what are some of the early warning signs, we spend a lot of time on early warning signs, because I think that's a space of window of opportunity. We have the greatest, we have a great opportunity there when there are these early signs where it's like a person is showing up every day, but there may be something there that you notice that you can either pose the question or offer support. Um, so that's what we spent a lot of time on it. And so the thing I love about the training and it's not just someone reading a PowerPoint to you, it's information but then it's practice. So we teach it to you and then allow you the space to practice what we've learned, right so if I talked about the warning signs and then this is how you would engage with a person who's demonstrating these signs, then you're able to practice that with a partner. And so you can really, really get comfortable with some of the language that that we encourage people to use. So that's how the training set up, it's a lot of that go over content for one section, and then you get to practice. And then we always end each section with a knowledge check. So this is what we learned, answer these questions, so that we can make sure that everyone is clear and understands before we move forward to the next session. So each section in the training is based on that it's education, practice, knowledge check. Um, and then from that, again, you'll get access to a lot of resources and materials, virtual materials, where you can just reference throughout of, okay, they talked about this, you know, it's two months later, I don't remember what Shannon said, in that training, let me go back and look and see what's there. I think it's important for you to be able to help other people. But it's also more important for you to be able to help yourself. And so there may be something that you read or you listen to, that resonates with you. And so we also in the virtual trainings and in person will offer people the opportunity that if someone, there's some, before we get to a topic, we'll say, hey, in this section, we're going to talk about substance use. So this is something that may be heavy for you and you need a moment you can you can step away. And so that's the thing that I think is very important, because a lot of these topics can cause people to reflect back to their own experiences. And so we also want to make sure that we have a space there for person to be able to step away, to discuss further and or seek help if needed. Um, I'll also say that what we're able to do on our campus, and why I'm so excited about our 25 instructors, is that we've also created a drive of just like resources, NC State personalized resources, because although this is a national training, Jonathan, if he's attending doesn't want to know about, you might want to know about some of the national resources. But more importantly, what's going to be most beneficial for the people that come through these trainings are, hey, like, what can I have access to right now on my campus. And so we also have a robust list of resources for people to be able to, they want to take it a step further that realize that they may need some support, or have someone that they know, like, oh, you know, you talked about something, I know someone who could really benefit from that. We want to make sure we get people the resources they need in hand.
Jonathan Eigenmann 17:33
And then, without going into any personal details, what have you seen in your own eyes, I make this training even more effective and more important for people like me and others listening, go ahead and be involved in it.
Shannon DuPree 17:46
Yeah, I'll say, I reflect back to the instructor training. And there was several people who reached out afterwards and just talked about like, I think we can get in the the grind of daily life. And then again, sometimes you forget all that maybe you've gone through over the past year or the past month or the past week. And so I think the thing I enjoy about the training is that it allows moments of reflection, right? It's like, I hear all this information, but then like, how does that apply to me and my life? How could I use this in my daily routine. And so that's the thing that I enjoy the most is those opportunities to reflect. And again, also those opportunities to practice what I've learned. I think we, we learned absorb so much information just in a single day. And so I love the fact that people are able to listen to the information, they're able to ask questions but more importantly, they're able to practice what they've learned. Language is so important. One of your first questions is about reducing stigma. So we want to make sure that we're teaching people the right language, that they're able to get familiar with the words to use and not use. So you'll notice when I talked about substance, I said substance use and not substance abuse. So it's little things like that, that we want to be able to teach people and so I think everyone who went through the instructor training left feeling empowered and those that reached out afterwards felt like, you know, I feel like I can help my colleagues or I can help my friends. And so and that's what we want. And we want everyone who goes to the training to feel that sense of like, empowered and like I have new tools in my toolbox and I can be able to help everyone on campus. And again, knowing that no matter what you do, who you are student, faculty or staff, you can be the difference.
Jonathan Eigenmann 19:37
And then I guess I'll go back a little bit to training like what what makes three years of a good range of time to go back to the training, and like maybe like, kind of like relearn or kind of like get get reused, get get used to again, like the knowledge that they learned three years ago, like what makes that a good time frame?
Shannon DuPree 19:57
Yeah. So it's evidence based training and so there's research that supports that. After a few years, sometimes you either don't remember what you've learned, and or they're also making adjustments to the content and materials. So every day new information is coming out and so every three years is where if there's new content, you'll be able to get that information and also, it's just a refresher. So even if nothing has changed in the past three years, it's a it's a good opportunity to get a refresher because the content might not have changed, but things have changed in the world. And we're able to kind of reframe the way that we share things, just like you think about three years ago, we hadn't gone through COVID-19 and so there may be some things that we've learned that now we're able to as, you know, new instructors, as new people, newly people trained and going through the course, you're able to get it with, with that kind of come into it with that experience. And in three more years, there'll be something else that we've experienced that we'll be able to kind of make adjustments, and in tweak the course content and materials based on what we're experiencing in the world in real time.
Jonathan Eigenmann 21:10
So hopefully, at this point, we're heading towards the finals and end of the fall semester, so a lot of students can get stressed and you know, our students are going to feel that anxiety and that pressure mounting onto them. What tactics orsteps can students specifically who are on campus listening to this podcast do in order to help deal with that stress and anxiety that comes with being a college student? Overall?
Shannon DuPree 21:34
Yeah, absolutely. Um, that's a great question, I think, first and foremost, to help reduce stress going into finals. Obviously, prepare, prepare, prepare as much as you can. Right, I always say "prior preparation prevents poor performance." So as much as you can, read, study, do all the things. Once you've done that, hopefully, you have a sense of confidence going into finals. But it's also important I hear students, I've heard students say, "oh I've been studying for 10 hours I studied all night, I've been in the library all day." That's not the best thing to do because that adds stress, so make sure that you are incorporating study breaks into your day. Even if you have a really long day, I don't, I don't get into the habit of telling people how long to study. But if you want to be at Hunt all day studying, make sure that you incorporate study breaks, make sure that you're eating, make sure that you are moving your body, whether you're walking and or if you have time to come to the Wellness and Recreation Center, do that. If not make sure you get outside and are just able to kind of exercise and keep your because that also helps you be able to retain information by simply moving your body by making sure you have balanced nutritious meals. So do those self care practices because what research tells us is that the more stressed we are for some reason, that's we're less likely to take care of ourselves and engage in self care when we should do the opposite, we need it more. So just make sure that you are taking care of yourself that your that your self care is also a priority during those times. And there'll be a ton of events that you can find on our website, on wellness.ncsu.edu, which is the university wide wellness page. So if you visit that, there'll be a ton of resources about what we call Distress Fest. So starting on LDOC, every day. During finals, we have options, everything from yoga to whine and design, which is an opportunity to engage in whine and painting and distressing. And we say whine, w h i n e because everyone is kind of going through it. So take advantage of those opportunities that are available to you break up your schedule, have study breaks, and do something fun during that time.
Jonathan Eigenmann 23:52
And this is like a small add on question and more of a short answer. Do you believe in the future as we're, as we learn more about this topic, and as maybe more people are more aware and let the stigma gets less and less and less? Do you think it will get to a point where this can be treated? I guess better than it is today as far as just overall exposure and it's just helping people who are going through these challenges?
Shannon DuPree 24:19
So I do think I hope I'm hopeful that over time we'll be able to reduce those students. And I do as I reflect back over the past five years or 10 years, I think there's been progress. So I'm hopeful that that'll continue to be the case. But I think we'll have to make intentional efforts to be transparent, to advocate for resources, to create spaces for people to share openly and not feel judged and then we have to also educate people so offering those things like mental health first aid. So I think the more we can change the narrative around mental health, and the more we can educate and empower people, um, I think we can get there. I just think it's going to be continuous small steps, but we're definitely on the right path. So my answer is yes, I think that we can get to a place where there's no stigma, because there has been such great progress and I think we're on the right path forward.
Jonathan Eigenmann 25:21
And then my final question is, could you tell the listeners about how to contact you and your associates with the MHFA? And wellness overall, maybe some direction? And how to sign up for the course if they maybe listen to this podcast and are interested after hearing you talk about it?
Shannon DuPree 25:36
Yes, absolutely. So our Wolfpack Wellness website, that site is wellness.ncsu.edu. If you visit that site, and click on the programs and services tab, there's a section that says mental health first aid, you can click on that and then sign up we have courses starting December 6 of 2021, through the end of June, I think are the last dates, so we have them scheduled for the 21 through 22 academic year. So you know, visit that website, there's a ton of information there, not only about mental health first aid, but other resources available on campus. And so you can also email me directly, my contact information is also on that page. But again, I'm Shannon do pre director wellness with wellness and Recreation. And that's firstname.lastname@example.org. And I'd be happy to answer any questions. If someone's having trouble accessing the webpage and or the course but we think we've kind of simplified it. If you visit the site, it should be pretty easy to sign up for. But again, it's at no cost and you get to select the options that's best for you if you're a person who wants to get it done in one day, but then there's also that two day option available as well. So I encourage everyone to check it out and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me directly.
Jonathan Eigenmann 26:55
Well, Mrs. DuPree that is all the questions I had for you today. I like to thank you for joining us today on Eye on the Triangle in spending some time with me talking about this training and it's a it's affected effectiveness towards mental health.
Shannon DuPree 27:08
Thank you and I hope that we get the opportunity to chat in maybe a year and we'll be able to talk about all the progress and some of the great success stories from the training.
Jonathan Eigenmann 27:18
Music and today's episode was sailing by Delicate Steve through YouTube Audio Library license. Thank you for listening to the episode today. If you want to listen to more episodes go to wknc.org/podcast as we have new episodes coming out every Sunday, this is Jonathan Eigenmann reporting for Eye on the Triangle signing off.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai