11:14 AM

UHD Experts & Gator Alumnus Share Mental Wellness Advice

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month


By Sheryl E. Taylor

Now, more than ever the world is grappling with uncertainty. University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) professors and a Gator Alumni bestow words of wisdom on how each of us can care of our mental health as we face the day-to-day challenges during this pandemic.

According Mental Health America, 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health.

UHD faculty members, Dr. Stacie DeFreitas and Dr. Susan Henney and Juan Rios, a Gator alumnus and crisis counselor offer tips and sage advice to our University community.

Henney, Professor of Psychology, says that everyone has something within their reach to make this current situation better … or at least to offer some relief from the stress and anxiety surrounding it.

“Getting outside, getting exercise and fresh air are just some of the things that can alleviate our anxieties,” she said. “Best of all, these things are at our fingertips, so take advantage of them. Also, gain control over the things you need to be comfortable on a daily basis. Make sure your car has gas; make sure you have home supplies and groceries. In spite of what we’re seeing in the media, we have not lost total control.”

The Harris Center’s mental health support line. The Center, launched in mid-March by Texas Health and Human Services for county residents, recently expanded its services statewide. More than 2,700 Texans have reached out to the 24/7 support line (833-986-1919) that provides trauma-informed support and psychological first aid to those experiencing stress and anxiety related to COVID-19.

Juan Rios, who earned a bachelor’s in psychology, is a member of the Harris Center support line staff, is on the frontline offering encouragement and comfort to Texans who are struggling with anxiety while finding a sense of balance during such uncertain times. And, what seems to be a constant theme for those reaching out is simple … an understanding listener.

“Right now, people need to hear that they are not alone,” said Rios in a recent interview with KPRC Ch. 2. “During these times (after weeks of self-quarantine), we all can use someone to talk to.”

Dr. Stacie DeFreitas’ stance on relieving anxiety and stress requires harnessing overall wellness.

“Good mental health is more than just the absence of a psychological disorder; it is the presence of wellness,” said DeFreitas, Associate Professor of Social Sciences. “Wellness includes happiness, satisfaction, peace, optimism, joy, positive self-concept, and a variety of other factors that lead to a fulfilling and pleasant life. It’s important to think about what brings us happiness, peace, and contentment, particularly in times of struggle. Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so take some time to check in and take care of yourself.

Mental Health Tips

· Just Breathe … Enjoy The World Around You

· You’re In Control … You’re Not Alone

· Reach Out To Others … Talk About IT

· Do Things You Love

· Find Joy In The Everyday

· Immerse Yourself In Self-Care


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) – the second-largest university in Houston – has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.

As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 61,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).

For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.