Sac State students coordinate mental health talk for senior project

Communication studies majors provided wellness resources at the event


Mercy Sosa

Cara Shuman decided to dedicate her senior project to mental health awareness along with five classmates. The group is hosting a virtual event on Wednesday, Nov. 18 to talk about tips for mental wellness and services available at Sac State. Screenshot taken by Estefany Nuñez via Zoom. Graphic in the background courtesy of Strength In Numbers CSUS.

Estefany Nuñez

A team of six graduating Sacramento State communication studies majors are dedicating their senior seminar project to their “Mental Health and Wellness Talk” Wednesday via Zoom, which will focus on providing mental health resources.

The goal of the event is to invite students and Sacramento community members to a 30-minute session that provides stress relief techniques, breathing exercises and advice such as encouraging everyone to look at the bigger picture, said group member Cara Shuman.

“I hope what people can get out of it is a bit of perspective,” Shuman said. “It feels like a break from everything going on.”

Shuman said the group decided to work with Ronald Lutz, director of counseling and psychological services at Sac State, to help facilitate the mental health and wellness talk.

The group was aware of many mental health resources available on campus, but wanted to streamline the information in one place, said group member Heidi Woods. 

“For the six of us, we all had in mind to do mental health awareness and to share resources about food, housing, financial resources,” Shuman said. “Even with school, stress relief in general is the aspect we wanted to focus on.” 

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Heidi Woods, Cindy Delgado, Kaylin Moua, Sabrina Saechao, Cara Shuman and Scott Spence decided to dedicate their senior project to mental health awareness. The group is hosting a virtual event on Wednesday, Nov. 18 to talk about tips for mental wellness and services available at Sac State. Screenshot taken by Estefany Nuñez via Zoom. (Isabelle Juarez)

Communications professor Pamela Sanger, who teaches the COMS 181 class, said the project centers on community service and students had free rein to decide their senior project topic.

“They can dictate what the project is,” Sanger said. “Each project is unique because it reflects the people and what they’re passionate about and what they want to do with it. They haven’t needed much help.”

Group member Sabrina Saechao, said she has also been struggling with her mental health and shelter-at-home fatigue, which has encouraged her to reach out to others.

To further their reach, the group also created their own chapter of Strength In Numbers on Facebook in hopes of spreading information about campus resources and their events. Strength in Numbers refers to a Facebook community where people bond over mental health. Not only does the Facebook page share resources, it also posts songs of the week to help uplift people during the pandemic, Saechao said.

“We’re all in this pandemic, we’re all feeling down,” said group member Cindy Delgado. “The only way you can get your information out there is through the internet.”

Delgado said she has struggled with her own mental health during the pandemic and has learned a lot by hearing others’ testimonies during this project. She said she often recalls Lutz’s advice to enjoy small victories that are important in daily life such as hobbies, habits and routines that are helpful to relieve your mind, body and soul.

Communicating with others helps make mental illness less of an individual problem, Woods said. Woods said she has an invisible disability herself and knows the stigma surrounding mental health. 

“It’s really difficult for people who don’t deal with this kind of thing to be able to empathize in some way, it’s not something you can see,” Woods said. “We want to be known for what we’re good at, not from what we suffer from.”

Woods said the group’s Zoom event will be a space for people to talk about their feelings and receive help, or even gain understanding by silently observing. 

“By us talking about it, it allows for other people to also talk about it,” said group member Kaylin Moua. 

Visit the Strength In Numbers CSUS Facebook page to attend the Mental Health and Wellness Talk Wednesday at noon via Zoom.

During the event Ronald Lutz gave advice for managing anxieties

“Once you’ve closed your eyes, take a deep breath,” said Lutz. “I invite you to just imagine you’re at the top of some staircase, spiral or straight, and as you go down the staircase, just relax and step off into a comfortable safe space.”

Lutz’s presentation focused on five steps to manage anxious energy. 

  • Focusing on information, specifically distinguishing fear and anxiety 
  • Decreasing physical tension
  • Perceptually coming to one’s own senses
  • Imagining a safe space 
  • Committing to finding a solution 

Lutz said that because fear and anxiety are experienced the same physiologically, it’s easy to confuse the two.

“You don’t want to get rid of anxiety completely,” Lutz said. “It’s a valuable thing, but like any energy, it needs to be balanced.”

Lutz encouraged everyone to imagine a safe space in their own mind and highlight the sensory experiences to make a powerful image for themselves. He added by memorizing this safe space, people can begin to form plans about their anxiousness.

“By drawing on these safe space resources, you’re going to be able to let your mind wander about why you’re feeling triggered or why you’re feeling anxious,” Lutz said.

Lutz asked the audience to shut their eyes, take a few deep breaths and imagine themselves walking down a staircase. He said participants should focus on calming down with each step they took down the staircase until they stepped off into their safe space.

“Life is kind of heavy,” Lutz said. “We all have triggers. We all need balance. It can be full of challenges and difficult conversations with different people, but you do have some control on how you respond to it.”