April 22, 2019 | 59° F

Rutgers hosts program to aid students with anxiety

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Photo Illustration | Rutgers is hosting a four-part anxiety workshop series to help students learn about how to cope with anxiety disorders.

The Rutgers Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities (SJE) has teamed up with Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) to provide a unique experience for students struggling with anxiety-related problems.

The series contains four parts in which participants will learn about anxiety, how it manifests in different people and different methods to manage symptoms, said Julia Pennick, a Graduate School of Social Work student. 

In the first session, Pennick said, students will examine anxiety and its biological function in humans for survival. The second session involves discussing and practicing meditation and mindfulness, the third session examines anxiety from a cognitive restructuring approach and the final session explains exposure therapy as an option for helping anxiety.

The sessions occur every Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Center for Social Justice, located at 17 Bartlett St. on the College Avenue campus.

A study published in 2010 found that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibits (SSRI) improves overall performance of those with depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health.

More than half of all students seeking help at college counseling centers report anxiety as an issue, said Annmarie Wacha-Montes, the assistant director for community-based services at CAPS, who cited the Center for Collegiate Mental Health's 2015 annual report. 

The report looked at more than 100,000 students from 139 college and university counseling centers around the country. 

One in six college students have been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last twelve months, according to the American College Health Association.

Pennick is one of many graduate students in the School of Social Work running the workshops. The partnership between CAPS and SJE was forged by graduate student interns, she said.

Because of the positive reactions that CAPS saw with this program, the idea of reaching the Rutgers community further with additional sessions was an idea they were open to.

This program is not new to the University, Wacha-Montes said. It started several years ago and with each year, more and more students are interested in attending. Last semester the organization had more than 100 students attend the workshops.

SJE and CAPS decided to expand the program and have multiple sessions that could easily fit into students’ schedules, Wacha-Montes said.

CAPS hosts several other intervention programs for students who are emotionally stressed. Wacha-Montes said CAPS holds “Let’s Talk” hours from 3:30 to 5 p.m. every Tuesday at the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities on the College Avenue campus for students to speak with a counseling staff member and get connected to other resources.

“We find that when students reduce their anxiety, they can improve their academics and relationships with others,” Wacha-Montes said.

Not all coping methods will work for everyone, Pennick said, which is why multiple sessions are hosted so students can try out what might best work for them.

The best thing students can take away from this series is some form of anxiety management that works for them and provides them with peace of mind during stressful or anxious times, Pennick said. 

But the meetings are not limited to students who have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, she said. 

“Everyone can experience anxiety … It is important to learn the tools to help one manage those symptoms," she said. 

Even so, diagnoses of such mental illnesses are on the rise. Anxiety and depression are now the most common mental health diagnoses among college students, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. 

But expanding the program to the SJE community is “exciting in and of itself,” Pennick said. She is looking forward to reaching more students and giving them tools that will enable them to have a handle on their anxiety.

“They can (then) pass that knowledge along to their friends, and we can create a wider community of students who know more about the anxiety that they are going through,” she said.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article said Rutgers CAPS holds their weekly "Let's Talk" event at the CAPS building. The event is actually held at the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities.


Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @Hasanabanana for more.

Bushra Hasan

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