A mission to support mental health

The importance of mental health and mental health services has become a topic of much discussion across the country and around the world, especially on college campuses. The UNI Counseling Center, which provides free and confidential counseling sessions for all UNI students, has recently added two new staff members and is implementing new programs to increase support for students.

The two newest additions to the UNI Counseling Center are Brian Nissen, suicide prevention educator, and Jennifer Schneiderman, mental health therapist.

UNI Counseling Center

“Mental health services are key in providing students the support they need to address their own issues and be able to remain productive as a student.”

Both started back in September.

Brian, who received his B.A. with a social work certificate from UNI, has attained a sense of purpose and accomplishment from helping individuals who are struggling with mental health and thoughts of suicide. He recognizes the challenges that college students face and views this as an opportunity to help foster a campus environment where seeking help is considered a sign of strength.

“It is critical all students at UNI understand mental health is a health concern just like any other and can be treated,” said Brian. “Mental health services are key in providing students the support they need to address their own issues and be able to remain productive as a student.”

Jennifer, who also received her B.A. in social work from UNI, has been providing outpatient mental health counseling in clinical settings in health care for the past 20 years between Allen Hospital, Psychiatric Associates and the Waverly Health Center.

She is passionate about reducing any stigma associated with mental health care, and strives to help and support UNI students during this critical period of their lives.

“I have a personality that helps me connect and be relatable with others and I really enjoy learning about ways to manage various mental health issues that people struggle with,” said Jennifer. “It is so rewarding to be able to share that information with the people who need it.”

Last spring, the counseling center added Shantila Caston, diversity outreach specialist, and two mental health counselors, Karla Reznicek and William Peach.

Shantila was born and raised in Waterloo and received her B.A. and M.A. in social work from UNI. She knew from an early age that helping people was her calling. “I grew up in a neighborhood where I witnessed a lot of people struggling to meet some of their most basic needs. I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession and this led me to social work,” said Shantila. Her experiences in social work have shined a light on the historical and systematic disadvantage that minorities face in their day-to-day lives, both in general and psychologically. She has made it her mission to help marginalized groups address personal, social and emotional challenges.

Like Shantila, Karla also grew up in the Cedar Valley and returned to live closer to her family. She received her B.A. in social work from UNI. Her passion for building relationships and trust and helping students work through their problems drew her to mental health counseling. “It’s important to me to take time with students and make sure they feel heard,” said Karla. “It is my goal to help students on their journey through college life by listening and providing encouragement.”

William is familiar with Iowa, as well, and received his B.A. and M.A. from UNI. His interest in philosophy led him on a path to psychology and mental heath counseling. “I believe that mental health is holistically vital and complementary to physical and spiritual well-being,” he said.  William’s goal is to establish therapy groups on campus. “Groups are a means of tapping into the diversity, knowledge and plethora of experiences here on campus. If we fail to consider and incorporate each other’s perspectives and opinions, we have left our greatest resource unutilized.”

The counseling center has also implemented skill-based workshops this semester, covering student-focused topics such as test anxiety, and hopes to add a Counseling 101 workshop in the near future.

With additional staff and new programs, the counseling center strives to connect with more students to provide them with resources and support. “The counseling center is truly a partner in education here on campus,” said Karla. “We have a great team who are all very dedicated to their profession and the students at UNI.”

For more information about the UNI Counseling Center, visit https://counseling.uni.edu/

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