Substance Use in College – Sober Voices

Defining College “Fun” & Practicing Inclusivity  

When you think about having fun in college, what comes to mind? Many might say things like: meeting new friends, experiencing independence, moving to a new place, living with roommates, trying new restaurants, going to campus events, joining a club, exploring interests and hobbies, attending sporting events, and more. Some might also think about drinking and substance use as a part of that college “fun.” This is a common thought both because many are curious about their substance use and hoping to experiment and explore as well as because we are often conditioned to consider substance use (particularly binge drinking) as a “normal,” expected part of college life. 

However, it’s important to remember that not only is it not a requirement to drink and use other substances in order to have a fun, normal college experience, for many, it’s an explicit choice to not use. Many entering (or re-entering) college may either be sober/substance-free as a lifestyle choice or as part of their recovery journey. Others may experience a shift in their college experience, initially engaging with substance use and later realizing it is not for them (again whether for addiction-related reasons or more general and proactive lifestyle reasons). Even if you choose to use, we can create safer spaces for ourselves and others if we are intentionally inclusive of those who are choosing not to use.  

New Offering, “Sober Voices” 

Whether you are sober, in recovery, curious about your own substance use, looking to learn more about others who don’t use, or interested in the overlap between substance use and other areas of your life, HPW is excited to offer a new way to explore these topics. We’ve partnered with the team at Sober Voices to provide our campus community access to informative videos and panel discussions on various topics related to sobriety. Check them out here! We invite you to watch these on your own time, with a group of friends, as part of ongoing education and exploration as a department, club, or organization, for personal introspection as well as community care.  

For faculty, staff, and student leaders on campus – reach out to HPW for a discussion guide to help you host a group viewing and discussion (guides are offered for the videos with an asterix). Help us share this resource with our community and we welcome your feedback. Watching these videos may prompt you to consider your own use – know you can reach out to HPW for help navigating on-campus and off-campus resources and referrals. 

  • Keynote: Brandon Anthony & Annie Grace  
  • Panel: Challenges in Accessing Sobriety for BIPOC 
  • Panel: Finding Love (and Sex) While Queer and Sober 
  • Panel: Disability Stigma: To Disclose or Not? 
  • Who’s Missing? Making Sober Spaces More Accessible and Inclusive with Lazarus Letcher* 
  • College Drinking: Changing the Narrative with Khadi Oluwatoyin* 
  • Normalizing and Glamorizing Sobriety with Shea Gomez* 
  • Rock Bottom is Not a Pre-Requisite to Sobriety with Tawny Lara* 
  • The Power of Sober Curiosity with Kirstin Walker* 
  • #CommittingtoClarity with Elijah McKinnon* 
  • Nutrition and Sobriety: Simple Strategies to Support Your Body Through Food During Early Sobriety and Beyond 

Existing Programs & Ways to Learn More 

As always, HPW offers weekly peer-led workshops designed to help you learn more about alcohol and cannabis use and ways to practice harm reduction (these workshops are called CHOICES and can be found on our DeHUB page). We also have a Collegiate Recovery Community that meets weekly to support students who identify as being in any type of recovery (again, you can sign up on DeHUB or by emailing hpw@depaul.edu). We also offer 1:1 sessions called BASICS, which provides you a space to assess your use and receive individualized feedback about your use (email hpw@depaul.edu to register).  

Please reach out with any questions or concerns, and we’d love to hear how these videos impact your understanding of college fun and inclusivity. And remember, Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Each Other, Take Care DePaul. 

How to Use Early Intervention to Decrease Student Stress

It’s no secret that college students often feel stressed. It’s not easy to balance academic success, self-care, maintaining a social life, and work. While most students are bound to feel some stress, feeling stressed all or most of the time can have long term effects. 

When someone is already feeling stressed, or when being stressed is normalized, it can be difficult to reach out for help. Going to a weekly therapy session just feels like another item on the to-do list, adding more time for self-care seems impossible, and some may find it more stressful to be open about their experiences with another person. In these instances, it is important to view mental/emotional stress like we do physical stress. If someone sprains their ankle, chooses not to rest or go to the doctor, and running and lifting heavy things, and doesn’t tell anyone their ankle hurts then the injury is only going to get worse. That is why early intervention is so important for those experiencing a decrease in their mental and emotional wellbeing- without intervention it will only get worse. 

Mental Health First Aid describes early intervention as “recognizing the warning signs of a mental health or substance use challenge and acting before it gets worse” (Mental Health First Aid, 2021). There are a number of ways students can make their mental wellbeing a priority before the effects of stress cause a deep impact on their lives. 

 

  • Start counseling early in the quarter: The first couple weeks of classes can feel manageable. There won’t be a lot of assignments, there’s usually plenty of time to spend with loved ones, and the stress of midterms or finals has yet to happen. While some may feel like it is premature to meet with a mental health professional when they don’t feel overwhelmed with their emotions, starting regular sessions at the early signs of stress may decrease the chances of someone becoming overwhelmed in the first place.  
  • Plan for self-care daily: It can be easy to feel like there isn’t enough time for self-care, especially when we are feeling stressed. However, this is the most important time to increase our engagement with self-care practices.  And the activities should relate to the needs that aren’t being met due to the increase of stress. For example, if someone is feeling disconnected from friends because of all the time that needs to be spent on schoolwork, they might schedule 20–30-minute hangouts. This can help maintain social connections and act as healthy break from studying.  
  • Schedule regular check-ins with a peer or professor: Some people may not want to meet with a mental health professional for a number of valid reasons. In this case, having a trusted person in their life who can see them or talk to them regularly, point out when it seems their stress level is increasing, and offer support that is appropriate for both parties might be a better option. If the support is coming from another student, the individuals can even be supports for each other. It is often easier to be open about difficult experiences with someone we feel understands our experiences.  
  • Reassess Time Commitments: When every minute of every day is planned out, individuals can feel too busy to stop and recognize that having too many responsibilities is causing stress, anxiety, or depression. It is important to have a well-rounded schedule that includes time for academic success, social activities, and personal wellness.  We can only give as much to others as we are giving to ourselves, and it is better to step away from a couple of responsibilities than to get burned out and need a long break from most or all of our previously planned commitments.  

Checking in with ourselves and honoring our emotions is not always an easy task. But hopefully by having a support system who is open about their mental health and is understanding when we need to take more time for ourselves, and knowing our own limits, we can be better prepared for when stress does show up in our lives.  

 

 

Related Articles: 

https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2021/06/the-importance-of-early-intervention-for-people-facing-mental-health-challenges/ 

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02673843.2019.1596823 

https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/05/29/advice-promoting-student-mental-health-during-pandemic-opinion 

https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/5/mental-health-in-higher-education-can-a-digital-strategy-help 

How to Support LGBTQUIA+ Mental Health

To honor Pride month we wanted to share some tips on how to support these community members. Mental health is an important factor in every person’s life, however experiencing mental health conditions while also being in the LGBTQUIA+ community can be even more stressful and less talked about. In the video provided Tally and Jasmine discuss their experiences of being in the LGBTQUIA+ community and how it intersects with their mental health, as well as coping strategies. 

LGBTQ Mental Health Matters

 

An important factor in strengthening the mental wellbeing of people in the LGBTQUIA+ community is having social support (https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Suicide-Risk-and-Prevention-for-LGBTQ-Patients-Brief.pdf). Support can be shown to members of the LGBTQUIA+ community in a number of ways and doesn’t necessarily have to come from other members in the community to have an impact. One way to show support to members of the LGBTQUIA+ community is by acknowledging their strengths which may include: 

  • Social Intelligence  
  • Empathy for Others 
  • Courage 
  • Creativity 
  • Authenticity  
  • Resilience 

(To have a deeper understanding about mental health experiences in the LGBTQUIA+ community look through the Mental Health Coalition’s Roadmap to LGBTQ+ Mental Health).  

Acknowledging these strengths can also be a way to tell people that their worth is being recognized beyond their identity in the LGBTQUIA+ community. Supporting the mental health of anyone means supporting them holistically, not just specific parts of their identity.  

And while there is a wider acceptance of members in the LGBTQUIA+ community, it is important to provide intentional support to these individuals. As Alok Vaid-Menon says in an interview with StyleLikeU “When we go to the club everyone is going to say ‘Oh my God, I love your outfit’ but no one is going to say ‘How are you getting home?”. Some ways to intentionally show support are to:  

  • Make no assumptions 
  • Use inclusive language  
  • Respond to anti-LGBT behavior 

(Visit GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit to learn more about creating accepting and supportive environments for member of the LGBTQUIA+ community).  

In order to not make assumptions we need to use non-judgmental questions to know what type of support the individual is asking of us. When an individual does disclose that they identify as LGBTQUIA+, its important to understand how they would like to be addressed. Ask if they use a different name or pronouns than ones indicated on official paperwork. If someone does approach you about services related to the LGBTQUIA+ community ask if they are looking for services that are in-person or virtual, anonymous, on or off campus, or about any other service types that are sensitive to the privacy of their identity. Don’t bring up their identity around others unless they do first or have explicitly stated that they are open about their identity. Disclosing one’s identity is a very personal process and everyone does it when they are ready- never pressure anyone to disclose if they are ready but simply provide support.  

It may also be beneficial to direct peers/students to resources that can offer ongoing support. The LGBTQIA Resource center hosts multiple programs throughout the year, has all gender inclusive restrooms, and can support students with name changing name/gender on university documents. They also provide resources for allies including a pronoun practicing website. The greater Chicago area has many outlets that the LGBTQUIA+ community can turn to for mental health support, some include Center on HalsteadIntraSpectrum, and Howard Brown Health Services 

 

 

 

Resources: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS7LbBWBnIY 

https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/GLSEN%20Safe%20Space%20Kit.pdf 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7Gh2n9kPuA 

https://offices.depaul.edu/student-affairs/diversity-and-culture/identity-specific-student-centers/Pages/lgbtqia-resource-center.aspx 

https://thementalhealthcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/MHC_Roadmap_LGBTQ.pdf 

https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Suicide-Risk-and-Prevention-for-LGBTQ-Patients-Brief.pdf 

https://howardbrown.org/services/ 

https://intraspectrum-chicago.com/ 

https://www.centeronhalsted.org/behavioralhealth.html

Recovery in College

What comes to mind when you think of recovery? Perhaps you think of being in recovery from drug or alcohol use. While this is part of what it can mean to be in recovery, it can encompass many more things as well. For instance, someone can be in recovery from a mental health challenge, an eating disorder, a traumatic experience, among other things. Anyone can be in recovery and oftentimes you may not know that someone identifies as being in recovery, and college students are no exception to this; anyone including college students can be in recovery.

Being a college student who identifies as being in recovery can present additional challenges. Many people, students, staff, and professors alike, may not understand what it’s like to be in recovery and to be a student. Especially now in a virtual environment, many of the preexisting challenges are merely exacerbated. It can be difficult to self-advocate for the necessary support as students may not know what resources are available to them, may be unsure of how to ask for support, might be anxious about self-disclosing information, or may be unaware they need support in the first place. Additionally, oftentimes it seems like a big part of the college experience revolves around alcohol or drug use. This can be a hard arena to navigate, especially if people around you encourage or pressure you to drink. In fact, colleges/universities are known as “recovery hostile environments” given the nature of what is normalized and glamorized. Going through college while in recovery can be a uniquely challenging experience. Whether it be substance use, mental health, or another form of recovery, it may be difficult to find a community that truly understands that experience.

DePaul offers the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) as a resource and place of support for those who identify as being in recovery. This is an excellent place to find support among other college students who identify as being in recovery. The group meets weekly on Thursdays, 5-6:30pm, and has been operating virtually this past year. While some in recovery may attend off-campus meetings as well, many of the group’s members find it helpful to be able to talk with other peers in recovery who are also college students. For example, it can feel very validating to not only know other peers who are sober but also other folks who are sober and understand the pressure of finals week. For those who are in recovery, here are a few tips to consider:

 

If you don’t identify as being in recovery, but want to know how you can better support those who are in recovery, here are some ways to be a better recovery ally:

  • Take HPW’s Recovery Ally Training (Register on DeHUB).
  • Believe and support those in recovery by being understanding, listening, and caring.
  • Respect boundaries – if someone doesn’t want to share any piece of their recovery journey with you, respect that!
  • Avoid normalizing or glamorizing substance use. Substance use is not an inherent part of the college experience. Normalize sobriety, glamorize substance-free fun, have sober options at parties, make folks who don’t engage with substances feel included.
  • Know other resources that you can offer to folks who may be interested in recovery.

If you are interested in DePaul’s CRC, have any questions, want to learn more, or are looking for support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, we are always here for you!

 

Office of Health Promotion and Wellness

 

Phone: (773) 325 – 7129

 

Email: hpw@depaul.edu

 

Social Media: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @healthydepaul

 

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Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Others, Take Care, DePaul!

 

 

 

Recovery Resources

How to Say “I’m Not Okay”

For the last Mental Health Awareness month post, HPW wants to give the DePaul community some support with having deeper conversations about mental health.  

Recognizing symptoms of mental health in ourselves may be an uncomfortable process. It can include changes in daily living, starting and/or reintroducing therapy into weekly schedules, thinking about potentially triggering topics (i.e. anniversaries of traumatic events) and discussing active mental health experiences with the people in our lives. Research from the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that discussing mental wellbeing may be most difficult for adults age 18-34 when compared to other adult age groups.  

 The APA did not indicate any reason why young adults (including many college-aged people) seem to struggle the most with accepting their mental health experiences. But, in the DePaul community we can encourage ourselves and our peers to be more open about our experiences. We can start by educating ourselves about mental health topics, including the concept that mental health is just as important as physical health. General Practitioner Helena Temple is one of many health care practitioners who are engaging in conversations about why “It’s OK not to be OK”.  

 

 

 

As she points out, the sooner we can recognize and verbalize our mental health symptoms the sooner we can be supported in increasing our mental wellbeing. For those who have never been to therapy or haven’t had access to information about mental wellbeing it might be difficult to understand what the signs of mental health distress are. There are some confidential online resources that can assess if an individual should seek support for their mental wellbeing, including a mental health screening on Hope for the Day’s website. 

Knowing how to start the conversation can help ease some of the tension that comes with disclosing mental health experiences. We have provided an outline for how to approach someone about mental health experiences when the time comes. 

 

Step 1: Reflection 

Maybe an anniversary to a triggering event is approaching, there are more stressful events than usual, or current environments aren’t providing the necessary support. Thinking about why these feelings are coming up may give a better sense of control over the situation. 

Step 2: Write Down or Practice What To Say 

Spend time writing out a script or bullet points that summarize your current condition. To get even more comfortable with saying the feelings out loud, try practicing on a pet, a picture of the individual, or a recording.  

Step 3: Start Small 

Think of the ripple effect. One small pebble can eventually make a ripple through the whole pond, but only after making smaller ripples first. Approaching one or two individuals to start the conversation can create more comfort in talking about the thoughts and feelings surrounding the mental health condition. 

  Step 4: Carve out More Time for Processing 

Focusing more on school, job responsibilities, or relationships instead of internal thoughts seems like a welcome distraction. But not taking steps to process the current feelings will only perpetuate them. Whether it’s starting therapy, finding a peer support group, or dedicating more time to a spiritual practice, there needs to be a shift in the time spent processing the current emotions. 

 

We understand that this outline might not work for everyone. If having a face-to-face conversation feels too scary it’s okay to send a message, talk on the phone, or write a letter. If there is a history of negative experiences with disclosing mental health symptoms it can be difficult to trust that the person receiving the information will respond in a constructive way. Should this be the case, starting with calling a hotline rather a loved one may be easier. What is most important about the process of disclosing personal mental health experiences is that it is done in a way that feels safest for the individual disclosing. And as always, HPW is here for you. We can be reached at 773-325-7129, through our email hpw@depaul.edu, our virtual office zoom link https://tinyurl.com/hpwvirtualoffice, or visit our website go.depaul.edu/hpw to see the list of resources HPW offers. 

 

Hotlines: 

National Alliance on Mental Illness: 800-950-6264 

Illinois Mental Health Collaborative for Access and Choice Warm Line: 866-359-7953 

Trevor Project Lifeline (LGBTQ+ Hotline): 866-488-7386 

Asian LifeNet Hotline: 877-990-8585 

National Alliance for Hispanic Health: 866-783-2645 

Illinois Call4Calm Textline (for emotional support with struggles from COVID-19): Text TALK or HABLAR to 552020 

 

 

Resources: 

https://www.hftd.org/geteducated 

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2019/05/mental-health-survey# 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5VTgty–Vg 

https://go.depaul.edu/hpw 

https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=123539 

http://www.illinoismentalhealthcollaborative.com/consumers/consumer_contacts.htm 

https://namiillinois.org/crisis-info/ 

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ 

https://www.healthyamericas.org/help-line 

https://aaspe.net/ 

Mental Health Support in AAPI Communities

In May we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, a time where we raise awareness of the toll mental health can have and the many stigmas associated with mental health among many other mental health-related aspects. Through social media campaigns, events and even screenings, organisations across the United States participate in providing key resources for something that affects us all. In that same breath, just as many organisations come together during May to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The contributions and influence that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made in the U.S. are highlighted and acknowledged. That is why it is only fitting that the intersection between these two is recognised.

While the U.S. categorises many into the term AAPI, we understand and recognise that encompassed within are a wide range of unique and diverse identities, countries, nationalities, and ethnicities. Many who have not only experienced great joy and achievement but unfortunately have also experienced a variety of different challenges, struggles, and trauma. Through the perpetuated model minority myth, various microaggressions, and physical violence, AAPI communities have been and continue to be unjustly treated.

Before we can dive deep into ways to support and resources, understanding barriers to support is the first step as we seek to overcome them. While there are a few, there is still very limited knowledge about AAPI mental health as a result of limited studies which have included individuals from AAPI Communities. “According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, serious mental illness (SMI) rose from 2.9 per cent (47,000) to 5.6 per cent (136,000) in AAPI people ages 18-25 between 2008 and 2018.” (https://www.mhanational.org/issues/asian-americanpacific-islander-communities-and-mental-health)

Many young Asian Americans do not seek professional help for their mental concern but rather they turn to their networks. Another thing we see is the lack of awareness for resources along with the still existing stigma around mental health within AAPI communities. This could be considered one of the biggest deterrents for seeking professional help. Other factors include cultural identity, faith, language barriers, and access to insurance and healthcare.

Firstly, as an ally allowing members of the AAPI communities to take charge in spaces and conversations relating to issues they are facing is a major facet of support. Lettings their voices to be the ones heard and amplifying them are good ways to start. Being mindful of language and phrases used when speaking about or addressing members of AAPI communities is also important. Ensuring that stigmatising or stereotypical words are not used and accepting correction can go a long way; again listen to what members of the communities are saying. Additionally don’t be afraid to reach out and show solidarity and support. Check-in and provide resources when you come across them. This goes back to the conversation about de-stigmatisation of mental health issues, show you care with a listening ear (if you have the bandwidth to do so!). Lastly, simply asking, “how can I support you” allow whoever it is to be in charge of the way they receive support. Do they need you to just be that listening ear? Do they just want a space to talk through things and need resources to do so? The answer only comes when you respect their dignity and ask.

For those seeking resources whether for themselves or others, here are some both on and off-campus.

Some resources at DePaul include the APIDA Cultural Center within the Office of Multicultural Student Success, the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, and University Counselling services.

Off-campus, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum is focused is improving health among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association has a wealth of resources including a directory of mental health service providers for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders as does southasiantherapists.org which is a directory of South Asian therapists of various heritages. The University of Connecticut’s Asian and Asian American Studies Institute partnered with the #IAMNOTAVIRUS campaign and the Asian American Literary Review to provide a Mental Health Workbook that includes literature, journals, and lots more resources to support Asian American mental health.

How to Recognize and Decrease the Effects of Burnout

In the 1970’s Herbert Freudenburger coined the term “burnout” and defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results”. He created the term after recognizing similar experiences from people with careers in “helping” professions. Since then, our understanding of who experiences burnout has evolved. People can feel burnout from many things, such as their job, school, interpersonal relationships environments (such as remote work/class). As we near the end of another quarter at DePaul, students, professors, and staff/faculty may be experiencing the collective burnout that often comes with finals week and still being in a pandemic. The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness wants to encourage all members of the DePaul community to recognize the signs of burnout in themselves and take time to reinforce or introduce boundaries that can decrease the effects of burnout. 

Burnout can be closely related to the amount of stress one is facing. Stress can be a positive tool to stay motivated and a sign of growth. However, it depends on the amount of stress and how the person can handle different stress loads. In an article written for helpguide.org they explain that the brain does not recognize differences between physical and emotional stress. They discuss various kinds of stress including: 

  • Workplace Stress 
  • Job Loss/Unemployment Stress 
  • Financial Stress 
  • Caregiver Stress 
  • Greif and Loss 

While that list does not provide all forms of stress (such as academic) it does highlight the idea that all individuals are experiencing some form of stress at almost any point in their lives. The article also explains that the stress changes from a constructive factor (helping to stay focused or alert, increase energy levels) to a deconstructive factor (frequently feeling overwhelmed or easily anxious) when there is an excessive amount. There is no official answer to how much stress is “too much” but recognizing the signs of burnout can help with figuring out where the excessive stress is coming from. 

Signs of burnout can include: 

  • Chronic exhaustion 
  • Having cynical thoughts about school/work/peers 
  • Feeling like tasks that were once manageable are now impossible  
  • Isolating from peers, co-workers, and family members 
  • Not participating in community events  
  • Experiencing heightened depression or anxiety symptoms  
  • Taking on more responsibility than is realistic. 

Signs of burnout can look different for everyone which is why self-reflection and time for yourself during high stress times is important. And while these side effects may seem obvious, it is possible that the person experiencing burnout is unaware that they are showing these signs. Overloading daily schedules, working more than is expected, and agreeing to take on more tasks when already feeling overwhelmed is often revered. However, these actions are not sustainable and contribute to the large-scale burnout that so many people seem to be experiencing.  

When transitioning from one responsibility to the next (such as from work to class) spend even five minutes doing something that is fun and relaxing and not on your “to-do list.” We fuel our burnout by overextending ourselves rather than providing more space for self-care.  

But this does not have to be an individual process. By reaching out to peers, friends, teachers, co-workers, supervisors, or professionals we can get support and help. DePaul has multiple resources that support students in creating routines to remind us that we have value outside of academic and workplace responsibilities including: Health Promotion and WellnessUniversity Counseling Services, and the Collegiate Recovery Community 

 

Resources: 

https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-burnout-symptoms-and-causes-3144516 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279286/ 

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm 

https://offices.depaul.edu/student-affairs/about/departments/Pages/ucs.aspx 

https://offices.depaul.edu/student-affairs/support-services/health-wellness/substance-abuse/Pages/substance-abuse-recovery.aspx 

Get Curious About Sober Curious

Whether you choose to drink alcohol or not do you ever wonder why alcohol is so prevalent in our environment, especially as college students? For instance, have you ever been to a party where there was no alcohol or had a night where the activities only revolved around drinking, perhaps the only goal of the night was to get drunk. Even in the media we consume, alcohol has an ever-present role in movies, TV, music, ads and more. If you’re curious about the role of alcohol in your life, in your social circles or even in our environment you may be interested in the sober curious movement.

Sober curiosity is a movement that emphasizes conscious choice and reflection regarding your relationship with alcohol. It is a lifestyle choice to reduce or abstain from alcohol and to engage with your own life and relationships in a new way. Often, when we hear the word sober, we think that means abstaining from alcohol or that abstaining is due to being in recovery. However, sober curiosity takes a unique approach in that it encourages serious reflection on alcohol and limited alcohol use without necessarily committing to being entirely abstinent (although that is always an option). Being sober may be an intentional lifestyle choice and sobriety does not always mean someone is in recovery from an Alcohol Use Disorder. In short, it offers flexibility with an emphasis on empowering you to decide what you want your use and relationship to alcohol to look like. If you’re interested in giving sober curiosity a try there are some tips below to get you started:

  • Don’t make alcohol/drinking the focus of the night: Whether it be at a friend’s house, a bar or elsewhere, your night doesn’t have to be planned around drinking. For example, instead of getting together with friends to drink, try reframing the night as a game night or a chance to share a meal. Shifting the focus away from drinking can help facilitate sober curiosity. Consider asking yourself and your friend group: Is it possible for us to have fun without alcohol? What might that look like?
  • Take time to explore: When practicing sober curiosity, give yourself adequate time to explore options. Maybe you try a certain group or activity that doesn’t quite align or feel all that fun. Don’t give up on sober curiosity just yet! It might take some time to find a crew you enjoy, activities that feel fun, and places that are interesting.
  • Start conversations early: Don’t wait until you’re at the bar to ask, “Why are we going out every weekend?” Start the conversation ahead of time and ask yourself and your friends questions like, “Why are going to the bar every weekend?” or “Can we do something else, what are our alternatives?”
  • Create space to reflect: Make space to ask yourself important questions about your relationship to alcohol. Whether you choose to abstain, reduce, or maintain your alcohol use, an ongoing internal conversation is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol. Below are a few questions you can continually ask yourself to help assess your relationship to alcohol:
    • When and why am I using alcohol?
    • How do I feel before, during, and after using alcohol?
    • Do I have other outlets for the role alcohol plays or do I always feel the need to use alcohol to fulfill that need?
    • How would I know if my alcohol use was becoming an issue?
    • What might my life look like without alcohol?
    • What might I gain from reducing or abstaining from alcohol use?

It may sound limiting to be sober curious in a city like Chicago where bars are as common as cars. However, Chicago offers a number of bars that serve booze-free mocktails! Click here or here for some sober curious options!

It’s important to note that being sober curious is not for everyone. For some, leaving the option to drink on the table may not be realistic, healthy, or sustainable and that’s ok. Abstinence as a way of life is another great option and the sober curious movement offers sober events where alcohol is not present, even when the group of people present may not be entirely abstinent. Sober curiosity is not a supplement for professional support or treatment for alcohol misuse. However, it is a great option if you want to reflect on your relationship with alcohol and explore different ways to live in relationship to alcohol.

Whether you are in recovery, sober, sober curious, or choosing to use alcohol you can always reach out to The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness for more information, support or other resources. We encourage you to engage in a continual conversation with yourself and friends to think about the role alcohol is playing in your life and how things might be different without it or with less of it. The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness offers 1-on-1 appointments and is a great place to begin this conversation. We also offer…

  • Peer-led workshops to learn harm reduction strategies and reflect on your use
  • Workshops for those who are living life substance-free
  • Collegiate Recovery Community meetings
  • 1:1 appointments to explore your relationship with alcohol, cannabis or other substances as well as mental health and sexual and relationship violence support

If you have any other questions about sober curiosity, alcohol, other topics, need support or anything else, never hesitate to contact us!

 

Office of Health Promotion and Wellness

 

Phone: (773) 325 – 7129

 

Email: hpw@depaul.edu

 

Social Media: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @healthydepaul

 

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Tips to Support Mental Wellness of Self and Other

This year for Mental Health Awareness month there has been a conversation about shifting the purpose of Mental Health month events from increasing awareness of mental health subjects to increasing awareness of what actions are needed to build a society that prioritizes mental wellness. The DePaul Values of believing in the dignity of every individual and committing to building community serve as excellent guiding principles for increasing mental wellness in the DePaul community. Part of recognizing the dignity of every DePaul community member is knowing the signs of mental health distress, how to approach a community member you believe is struggling, and what healthy coping skill are.  

According to the national Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) some indicators that someone may be experiencing a mental health condition are:  

  • Excessive feelings of worry, fear, or sadness  
  • Noticeable changes in mood, behavior, or concentration (i.e., a friend who normally has more reserved emotions seems easily frustrated over the last few weeks, or the opposite someone who normally shows expressive emotions has been more reserved lately) 
  • Changes in sleep, energy level, eating habits, or substance use  
  • Increase in physical symptoms that seem unexplained (feeling “achey” but not sick, getting headaches while drinking enough water, having stomach pains before or during work/class time) 
  • Increased discussions about their appearance or comparing how they look with how other people look more than usual 
  • Avoiding eye contact in public spaces or avoiding public spaces in general  

10 Common Warning Signs of a Mental Health Condition in Teens and Young Adults 

 

 

It’s likely that while reading this list a loved one came to mind. Knowing the signs that someone is struggling with their mental health is not inherently difficult, especially if that someone is a classmate, co-worker, family member, or roommate. However, it is crucial for people who recognize symptoms of mental health conditions in others to address their perspective with the person they believe may be struggling. Building a strong community sometimes requires difficult or uncomfortable conversations. And respecting the dignity of community members requires these difficult conversations to be handled with kindness. NAMI has some tools for how to approach a community member you believe is experiencing a decrease in their mental illness, including:  

  • Finding a space to talk that is comfortable for both of you and private 
  • Use straightforward, relaxed, and respectful communication for the whole conversation  
  • Use active listening skills to help them feel more comfortable about opening up 
  • Come from a place of care and support rather than a place of “knowing what’s best” for the other person 

The main points to remember when talking with someone about an outside perception of their mental health is to be genuine, be understanding, and do not bring assumptions into the conversation. Everyone knows themselves best. Supporting a loved one in their mental health journey means listening to what they want their healing to be. Giving a list of possible outlets for them to try is appropriate as long as they are offered as suggestions and not ultimatums. Including ideas about how the other person can increase their awareness of their mental health shows that the conversation is coming from a place of care rather than a place of control. The list of ideas can be accessible therapy outlets (like the University Counseling Services), healthier coping skills (such as coloring before bed instead of watching TV, calling a friend when you feel sad instead of listening to “sad” music, or writing down the emotions they are feeling instead of holding all their emotions in), and even a weekly check-in with someone they trust and know has the emotional energy to provide that level of support.  

The Office of Health Promotion and Wellness wants every DePaul community member to know that they are not alone in their mental health journey. Recognizing and increasing mental health wellness in ourselves is not meant to be done alone. Talking about mental health, checking in on each other, and offering appropriate support are ways that our community can move from being aware of mental health effects on campus to taking action that increases the wellness of every Blue Demon.  

 

Visit the pages on nami.org to read more about the signs of mental health stress and how to approach loved ones who may need support with their mental health wellness: 

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms 

https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/NAMI-FaithNet/Tips-For-How-to-Help-a-Person-with-Mental-Illness 

Health Promotion and Wellness Spotlight: Collegiate Recovery Community

The Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) at DePaul was created to give DePaul students and alumni peer support in their recovery from substance use, mental health conditions, and eating concerns. CRC hosts weekly meetings, connects students in recovery to new resources, and engages in continuing education to ensure a safe environment for all participants in the recovery process.  HPW believes that by engaging in recovery services with peers, individuals can obtain academic, social, and personal success.  

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines recovery as “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.” 

To uphold this definition CRC holds weekly meetings led by HPW staff where members of DePaul’s recovery community can interact with other individuals who are also in the recovery process. Even if you participate in 12-step programs or NAMI meetings, the weekly CRC meetings are a place where people can freely talk about how mental health, substance use, and eating concerns can intersect with staff and peers who also understand that recovery from multiple experiences sometimes happens simultaneously. The meetings alternate every other week from large group discussions (all participants of that week’s meeting stay in the main Zoom room as everyone responds to the question of the week) to small group discussions (participants are split into rooms based on the type of recovery that is most relevant to them and respond to the weekly question in the small group). The CRC holds the recovery meetings every Thursday from 5 PM-6:30 PM. Upcoming meeting topics include: 

  • Healthy Boundaries  
  • Healthy Coping Mechanism: Tools in Your Toolbox 
  • Spirituality in Recovery 

 

May is Mental Health Awareness month! In honor of this time, the Collegiate Recovery Community is hosting a Crowdfund campaign to extend support of DePaul students and alumni actively in recovery. The tiers of the Crowdfund are: 

  • $10 (this amount will help CRC continue to make and distribute media that educates DePaul about resources available for recovery support). 
  • $50 (this amount will be used for training materials to teach staff and allies about how to be supportive, using motivational interviewing, and how they can aid in destigmatizing recovery) 
  • $250 (this amount will help current students seeking recovery who have unplanned financial needs that result from a mental health condition or substance use).