Counseling and Psychological Services offers variety of programs, support for students

Photo Courtesy of University of Nebraska at Omaha

Juli Oberlander

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. deal with mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In order to meet student’s healthcare needs, University of Nebraska at Omaha Counseling and Psychological Services offers free confidential counseling to help students, faculty and maintain their mental health.

“Being able to manage our own stress is really one of the key responsibilities of being an adult,”
said Katherine Keiser, a campus medical health professional.

Keiser said students, faculty and staff can visit CAPS to address concerns in about eight to 10 sessions. The center offers free, short-term counseling, consultations and group counseling, among other services. Keiser said it is common for people to try to live their lives the best they can only to encounter obstacles, such as anxiety and high amounts of stress.

“It can be really helpful to be aware of your own level of stress and what to do about it,” Keiser
said. “It can be awfully easy to bury our heads in the sand and try to push things aside, but they have a funny way of creeping up on us if we don’t deal with them.”

Keiser said a stigma exists with mental health that causes people to feel embarrassed or unwilling to seek help.

However, that stigma is decreasing due to media attention, outreach programs and the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has made college more accessible to students.

The military is a large part of why Americans are more willing to discuss their mental health. An estimated 18 to 22 veterans commit suicide every day, according to NAMI.

Keiser said the military is working to get veterans the help they need, and the goal of seeking help has infiltrated into the media. Mental health awareness is also important to college campuses.

CAPS participates in many outreach programs in order to educate students on mental and emotional health. Keiser and her colleagues attend events, talk to classes and lead suicide prevention trainings.

Keiser has also taught stress management classes.

“Half the battle is just making sure people know we’re here and that we’re free and confidential,” Keiser said. “We get our faces out there, and I think we make it less scary.”

Keiser said many people feel relief from having someone to listen to them. Social support in the form of support groups is one of the greatest ways for people to de-stress.

CAPS offers various campus support groups open to the community. Beyond Blue is a support group for students with depression and anxiety. Lez-Bi-Real-Queer meets weekly and is open to students who identify as LGBTQIA+, according to the CAPS webpage. In addition, UNO has a NAMI chapter and has just started a veteran support group. Three weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings run at UNO, as well.

Along with social support, Keiser said CAPS works to prevent suicide, sexual assault and substance abuse. Two licensed alcohol and drug counselors are on staff and work with the UNO and Omaha communities.

“Prevention is a huge thing,” Keiser said. “Alcohol and drug abuse are very highly correlated with suicide and sexual assault, and I think we have some key staff who are experts on that.”

Keiser said she talks to students about a variety of mental health concerns from depression to test anxiety. She believes students have stressors in their lives past generations didn’t have to face, such as social media.

Keiser said UNO students are unique because most of them have jobs, which can lead students to make a choice between self-care and productiveness.

Keiser believes a student’s first priority should be to take care of his or her health and wellbeing.She said students should have “fuel” in the form of sleep, nutrition and relationships.

“I tell my clients there’s a difference between self-care and self-indulgence,” Keiser said. “If we’re not taking time for self-care, then we become like a car engine that’s running on empty.

Bethany Harwick is a UNO sophomore who has worked to maintain her health since she started college. “I think it’s important to take time to put yourself first,” Harwick said. “When you let stress build up, it really can take a toll on a person and they can just shut down.”

Harwick, who is majoring in education, said she relieves stress by watching TV and going to the gym. Talking to family and friends also helps her gain peace of mind.

“I think getting your feelings and thoughts out once in a while can help,” Harwick said. “You feel like you aren’t holding so much inside yourself.”

Harwick said she dealt with anxiety throughout high school and worried about doing well in college. Since she started attending UNO, she has worked to put her emotional and physical health first by exercising in HPER regularly as well as making time to relax between studying.

Harwick said she has felt much better about herself since adding these activities into her daily schedule. She also has improved her mental state by dedicating more time to her hobbies such as playing viola. Like Harwick, Keiser said it is vital for students to take time to do what they enjoy.

“It’s tough to be a college student if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed,” Keiser said. “It’s
really more important now than ever that we invest in ourselves.”

For more information about CAPS services, visit