Photo from @pcchealthwell Instagram. Student health services representative Vir Vergel de Dios stays connected with students through her monthly podcast Healthy Hour.
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September is dedicated to suicide prevention and PCC’s Health and Wellness department spent the month supporting the mental health of students with the restraints of distance learning. 

In a study conducted in June the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that adults have experienced an increase in suicidal thoughts, among other mental health issues such as anxiety, in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Jason Vasquez, the lead psychologist with the PCC Health and Wellness department, said he has noticed a change in the needs of students who seek out help.

“Students are dealing with isolation, loneliness and anxiety and some are struggling with the transition to online learning,” Vasquez said. “They’re also dealing with racism and discrimination that’s going on in our country right now as well as the wild fires brought on by climate change. It’s a lot to deal with at all once, which is why mood management is so important right now!” 

This provides an unprecedented obstacle for the Health and Wellness department at PCC as they attempt to help students handle these increased mental health issues while respecting social distancing guidelines.

As a new resource to provide more support to students, the Health and Wellness department is partnering with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to bring Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) training to PCC’s faculty and staff.

According to Psychology Today this approach trains participants to question a person who is showing signs of being in crisis or having suicidal thoughts, persuade them to get help and refer them to the appropriate services for further assistance. 

This training will equip faculty and staff with the tools needed to intervene when a student is having a mental health crisis. The first QPR training event took place on September 29, and the second will be held on October 13 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This training is open to all faculty and staff. 

The department will also be creating virtual support groups for students with a variety of topics such as anxiety management and will be including groups aimed at first generation students, students of color, and LGBT+ students. 

They are also taking to their instagram account @pcchealthwell to start a conversation about suicide prevention, posting the warning signs of suicide and other resources to their page. 

“Our goal is to destigmatize mental health issues and bring attention to suicide prevention,” health educator for student health services Vir Vergel de Dios said. 

 In an effort to stay connected to students while they cannot meet in person the department started the new Healthy Hour podcast, a monthly podcast covering a variety of health topics with medical professionals. 

Vergel de Dios is the host of Healthy Hour and has been working to help PCC students during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We used to be able to be out in the quad, speaking to students directly but now that’s not possible so we created Healthy Hour to continue giving students access to information even though they couldn’t be on campus,” Vergel de Dios said. 

In the latest episode of Healthy Hour she spoke to Psychologist Alison Johnson about suicide awareness and prevention. 

“It’s important to talk about suicide, that’s the purpose of this month. It doesn’t have to be something that’s shameful to talk about.” Johnson said. “If I had a chronic migraine or some severe pain I would be going to the doctor to ask about it, so if you have a chronic pain in your soul you should come and get some help with it.” 

While in person services are not currently available to students due to the pandemic, therapy services have been made available through virtual appointments. Students can contact health and wellness personal counseling at (626) 585-7273 and leave their name, student ID number and contact information to set up a video or phone call session with a trained professional to address their mental health needs. These services are free for all PCC students.

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