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) is the second-largest university in Houston and 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 approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.