By Alexandra Smith
UPPER BURRELL, Pa.—Penn State New Kensington students may be unaware that the university offers health services to students including personal counseling, disability services, athletic physicals, health and wellness programs, and other medical treatments.
Students, faculty, and staff are eligible to receive free treatment from the campus nurse, counselors, and medical doctor.
Many students may feel overwhelmed by academic, social, family, financial, and work stresses throughout the semester. Two licensed counselors are available on campus to help students manage the demands of university life.
Heidi Shirley, campus counselor, said that the counseling services at Penn State New Kensington are free of charge, and very flexible. “Counseling is absolutely free,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about a thing. The length of a session depends on how long a student has. We’ll take as long as anybody needs.”
“You can call to schedule an appointment or just stop in. Either way is fine,” Shirley added.
Shirley, whose counseling specialty is family and marital therapy, said that everything discussed during an appointment is confidential, and that she treats a wide variety of illnesses, “We treat everything,” she said. “Primarily here it’s just stressful situations.”
Julie McCune, also a campus counselor, said that most of what she treats on campus is “school stress, family stress, and financial stress.”
“We see people who are already in treatment outside of here, but need a little support for depression or anxiety if it’s getting in the way of classes,” she added.
Shirley said that students who are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out need to practice balance in their lives. “There has to be balance in your life,” she said. “You have to pay attention to your social life, your health, your school, and your family. You have to get all of that into your week.”
“I think the most thriving person out there is the person who is well balanced and making sure they’re paying attention to every aspect of their life,” Shirley added.
McCune’s said her tip for students dealing with stress is to “just stop.”
“If you feel like it’s all too much, then for a moment it probably is. Just stop and think okay, what do I need to do right now? Because you can’t do everything all at once,” she said. “The minute you start talking about that big thing to a therapist or someone else, you start to hear it outside of your head and it makes it more manageable. If you keep it all in your head, it will stay too big.”
The campus nurse and medical doctor also treat a wide variety of medical needs on campus.
Nurse Elaine Zarichnak said she performs physicals for varsity sports, treats minor injuries, illnesses, and conducts health and wellness programs for student, faculty, and staff. “On a daily basis I treat any medical needs that students have,” she said. “Or I refer them to other resources in the community that they need.”
“I have an open door policy,” Zarichnak said. “I think that students feel very comfortable coming in here. It’s all confidential.”
Zarichnak also noted that a medical doctor is available on campus. “He’s here the first and third Wednesday of almost every month from around 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., and he will see students for all medical reasons.”
Zarichnak said that her tips for staying healthy throughout the semester are all about healthy food, limiting alcohol consumption, and staying involved with campus activities. “Eating healthy food is important,” she said. “Minimize the intake of alcoholic beverages because it does make you sluggish and affects your judgment.”
“Joining clubs is very important. Maybe joining a team. Get involved with something happening on campus because it makes you feel like you’re a part of something,” she added.
Students can visit campus counselors on Mondays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Tuesdays from noon to 3:00 p.m., and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. from August to May. The counseling office is located within the theatre and IST building at ITC034.
The nurse is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from August to June. The nurse’s office is located within the athletics center.