Josephine Lara, Student Health Educator posing in her office. Photo by Norma Quintero.
By Anthony Vasquez, Staff Reporter
Since its split from the Health Center in July, California State University, Dominguez Hills Student Psychological Services, and its peer-to-peer program “ToroWellness” have been rebranding and expanding its services by implementing a new social media outlet, an increase in diversified staff, and reducing mental health stigma.
The goal is to educate the CSUDH community as well as to provide direct services through individual and group therapy.
Student Affairs President, William Franklin, announced the split last summer via email.
According to Franklin’s email, the decision to move the unit in a new direction was made in consultation with Dr. Janie MacHarg, former director of the CSUDH Health Center, and CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham.
What also contributed to the split was MacHarg’s last year’s retirement. For five decades, MacHarg was the director for both Psychological Services and the Health Center.
According to the newly appointed Director, Tiffany Herbert, who is also a psychologist, the split has allowed Psychological Services to explore an independent vision and to examine the best practice of mental wellness for the students.
In his email, Franklin said the divide was made in hopes of building and improving student mental services considering the recent events that students were witnesses of.
“In all candor, most of our campus conversations took place before the COVID-19 health crisis hit and before the Black Lives Matter movement forced the nation to, once and for all, deal with the plague of historical and systemic racism,” Franklin said. “As we prepare for an academic year unlike any other, we must brace for a larger wave of student mental health challenges.”
Herbert agrees that the pandemic has increased the stressors students faced beforehand.
“We have had an influx of students experiencing great distress, much of which has been brought upon by the pandemic, racial injustice, and political climate,” Herbert said in an email to the Bulletin.
Alongside Herbert who is in charge of SPS, Josephine Lara, Mental Health Education Assistant, and student psychologists, Dr. Nathan Edwards and Dr. Katie Johnson assisted in relaunching the SPS website, adding ToroWellness, and expanding the social media platforms.
One of the many social media platforms they have been working on is expanding their Instagram, which features informative graphics in relation to mental health and often hosts live streams featuring clinical psychologists, along with promoting future events such as guided meditations.
Lara’s contributions to this page consist of segments such as, health topics of the day, “Mindful Mondays,” and mental health wellness tips, which are now only available on the ToroWellness page.
After a testing phase, SPS has launched “YOU,” a free application meant to assist students by providing tips and exercises in relation to both mental and physical health. The app is currently accessible through both phone and computer.
Herbert believes that medical services are different from psychological services and the best way to work with students who are looking for psychological services is to reach out to them.
“Becoming separate departments has allowed Psychological Services to explore an independent vision and to examine our best practices of mental wellness for our students,” Herbert said.
Another recent effort to increase engagement is the relaunch of the Pure Mental Health Education Program, which helps students become ToroWellness Educators.
According to the site, ToroWellness Educators consists of student leaders who help raise mental health awareness through presentations, discussions, and group workshops that cover topics around reducing the stigma of mental health and collectively building safe spaces.
On top of offering these new services, SPS is currently pushing for an increase in staff, an extension of service hours, and more digital tools like a YouTube channel to communicate and accommodate student needs.
In order to attain these goals, there has been a proposal to increase the current Health Services Fee, which would rise from $75 to $130. The last time a fee increase happened was in 2006.
“I am proud to say that we have one of the most diverse counseling centers in the CSU system,” Herbert said.
Currently, SPS is still located in the Student Health Center located next to Welch Hall. If you are in need of assistance or help you can also contact SPS here:
Phone: (310) 243-3818