OGDEN — If you bring cute dogs, they will come.
Food is a go-to when it comes to persuading people to attend an event, but the only draw that might match it is a handful of adorable therapy dogs.
Four such dogs — Kiara, Olive, Penny and Lucia — made an appearance at Weber State’s mental health day Tuesday.
Brought by Intermountain Therapy Animals, the dogs were there to help relieve student stress after midterms as part of Weber State’s Mental Health Day event, which is held annually. A similar event is held in the spring.
Students say the dogs really help.
Kasey Rollins, a master’s student preparing to teach English and English as a second language in public schools, says she has dropped by this event every year she’s been a student at Weber State.
“You don’t realize how stressed out you are until you walk into this (event), and then you just feel it shed,” Rollins said, referring in particular to interacting with the dogs.
“It’s extremely, extremely important to de-stress,” she said. “It’s a huge issue (among students at universities) across the country. You’ve got to take into consideration ... how expensive college is, and the vast majority of Weber State University students are also working students, so you’ve got people that are working, you’ve got people that are going to school, they’re dealing with families ... you’ll see a lot of students that are just doing way too much. And then you walk in (to this event), and ... there’s puppies ... and you get to cuddle them, and you de-stress for a second before you have to go to class.”
Rollins said that spending time with family makes the biggest difference in managing her stress, as well as taking time for herself.
“I’ve gone to two other universities. I went to University of Tennessee and I went to Eastern Michigan University, and so far ... it feels like Weber actually cares more about the students than any of the universities I’ve been to,” she said.
Brandon Danens is a high school senior at Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science, a charter school with a location on Weber State’s Ogden campus.
He’s already at the university, so its easy — at least logistically — to take college classes. Like others, he stopped by to see the dogs. Dogs are his favorite animal, he said.
Danens said he has a lot of transitions going on in his life. He’s taking college classes for the first time. He got his first job in April. He also recently learned to drive.
“All of that stuff in the same year — all of that has been really tough on me, but my therapist has been helping me because I’ve been talking to her about it,” Danens said.
Danens has been seeing the same therapist for about a year and a half. He sought out mental health support when he was having difficulty sleeping.
He’s not sure everyone feels comfortable telling others that they meet with a therapist, but the quality of the therapist might influence how much they share.
“I have a great therapist, so I’m ... comfortable talking about that wonderful therapist,” he said. “But I don’t go around and talk about it with my friends that much. I’ll mention it, but that’s about it.”
Britton Harward is a freshman at Weber State and a member of the Psi Phi Psi fraternity — “the nerdy fraternity,” he said.
Harward and his fraternity brothers brought the virtual reality game Tilt Brush to the event. Tilt Brush allows people to create a 3D painting that feels like they’re inside of it, creating various objects — about as close to a magic wand as a human can get.
Harward agrees with other students that stress is an issue on campus. He’s noticed it mainly in the demand for counseling services on campus.
He appreciates the free counseling available through Weber State’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center. The center offers up to 30 free visits and offers help transitioning to other support if necessary.
“I know that costs a lot of money,” Harward said, “but if we could get a little bit more resources so we have a few more counselors (that would help) because Weber State is growing.”
Harward said that opportunities for engagement on campus with clubs and other groups — any setting where students can connect with other people — can also support mental wellness.
“Personally, for a fraternity, I can reach out to any of these guys whenever I’m feeling sad, and they can help lift me up and help me become a better person,” Harward said. “... That’s a big thing ... for our fraternity and Greek life ... the eternal brotherhood and sisterhood of having people (to reach out to).”
Other stress relieving activities at the event included making origami, coloring mandala patterns.
There were also several tables of different resources on campus that support mental health, like Student Wellness and Campus Recreation.
Amy Blunck, coordinator of mental health initiatives and licensed mental health counselor, was at the event providing education about mental health, and inviting students to a new weekly peer support group, run by trained students. Anyone is invited to attend any of the group meetings, and participants don’t need to commit to a certain number of days.
The support group is part of Wildcat Support Network, a grant-funded program at Weber State that also offers a credit-bearing course on mental health awareness and advocacy, Blunck said.