Students learn about local health services and risks of substance abuse


Photo by Ryan Van Stralen

Clear The Air students advocate a smoke-free campus.

Students gathered at the USU Arcade for Let’s Talk About It, an event set up by the Student Health and Counseling Services to spread awareness about the risks of alcohol and smoking while providing information about local health services on Sept. 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Each table represented a different awareness program or service that students can use throughout the academic year.


Noemi Rodriguez represented the North County Health Services (NCHS) table where pamphlets were given out stating that even uninsured patients are welcome to the services that they offer at various clinics. Some of the services include: preventative care for adults and children, dental, women’s health, chiropractic care and behavioral health care. 


Rodriguez said that knowing about the NCHS locations and the services they offer may be of importance to students because “… a lot of students find themselves working part-time and they might find themselves uninsured right now. So they can come to us and pay for their services out of pocket at a price that is appropriate to the income level they currently have and their household size.”


Aware, Awake, Alive, a program that educates youth about the misuse of alcohol and the signs of alcohol poisoning, was led by Hope and Wellness Peer Educator Amber Giusti. 


A demonstration was provided to show students the actual serving sizes of alcohol. A red plastic cup was used as part of the demonstration. Students who participated were asked to pour liquid into the cup and stop at the level they believed to be appropriate. Many students ended up pouring over the limit. It was revealed that beer is only to be poured two inches from the top and any hard liquor is only to be poured at a finger’s width from the bottom of the cup. 


Giusti shared that many students underestimate the amount of alcohol they drink and that some aspects of campus culture may play a part overconsumption. 


“For some of these students it’s the first time living away from home, relatively unsupervised… And a lot of times it is from a lack of experience and lack of information knowing what a standard drink is and not knowing how it can really affect your system,” said Giusti.


The campus’ Clear The Air program was also represented at the event. 

Demi Akindele, a program ambassador, explained that the program was made to encourage students and faculty to maintain a smoke and tobacco-free campus. Simple actions such as clearing up litter and respecting smoke-free zones were all described as efforts to help clear the air. This can simply be done by tagging the location where litter or vapor was seen. 


Akindele shared that this program helps bring people together on campus and aids in the well-being of everyone.


“It’s working together as a community… to be in a healthy, learning environment. Using this tool will let us come together and work together to promote a healthy, tobacco and smoke-free campus,” said Akindele.


Genesis Barrera, a Peer Educator of the school’s Hope and Wellness Center, was a representative at their table. The program she advocated for was Each Mind Matters, a statewide initiative for individuals to feel encouraged to receive help for any mental health symptoms they may be experiencing. 


Pamphlets were given out and listed the signs in which a person may need support at their local counseling center. 


Anxiety was described to be a natural emotion to feel but if symptoms like excessive worry, trouble sleeping and racing pulse appear for more than six months, then anxiety could be an issue. 


Clinical depression was defined as more than just a state of feeling sad. An individual can also feel restlessness, irritability and a loss of interest in hobbies. 


Barrera shared that mental health care and support is relevant to students, due to the complex balance between academics and personal relationships. Stress from this complex balance may be a factor in students feeling possible symptoms of anxiety or depression.  


Barrera said, “With the university workload, it can be hard for some students to know how to deal with the stress.”

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