Courtney Weaver sits down with Dr. Sarah Milam and Ife Sinclair from the Carruth Center to talk about social wellbeing, it’s importance for overall wellness and how students can build it here on campus. Courtney also shares a brief message from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (www.dbsawv.org). If you are interested in attending the WVU community meetings, please email Sade Miller at sademiller2627@gmail.com

Transcription: 

Welcome once again to Wellbeing Wednesdays. My name is Courtney Weaver. I'm the director over at WellWVU here at West Virginia University. Today. I am joined by not one, but two guests, both from the Carruth Center here on campus. We have Dr. Sarah Milo, who also has a joint position with Adventure West Virginia.

And she's been a guest on our show before, and then we are also joined by, and Ife Sinclair, and she's an intern at Carruth, um, in psychology in the last year of her doctoral program. So she is very close to getting the, that lovely prefix of doctor before her last name. Um, so welcome to both of you. How are you all doing today?

Good. Excited to be here. Thanks so much for having us Courtney, of course. Well, why don't you each tell us a little bit about your roles here at the university. Great. So, um, my name is Sarah and I work in a joint position between Adventure West Virginia and the Carruth Center. And I, uh, in that role, I'm a, uh, supervised psychologist at the Carruth Center and I provide individual therapy and crisis intervention and, um, And I am a kind of in a consulting role with Adventure West Virginia, but I also, um, work as, as part of their staff too.

And of course direct and help create some outdoor wellbeing programs. And that's really our goal with this joint position is that we can create. Um, ways for students to connect socially and, uh, still be safe during this pandemic and be outside and support their wellbeing. So I'm very excited to come and speak to this, this podcast today.

Yeah. And I say, and as part of my position as an intern at the Carruth Center, I also do. Individual therapy, group therapy, um, psychoeducational testing, crisis interventions. And I'm also involved in a couple of discussion groups. So for international students and pro black students. So again, just having a space where they can connect and share concerns just about what's been going on with COVID and everything else right now, just making sure we've got a space for, for those students to connect.

All right. Well, speaking of connection, the topic for today's show is a little bit on social wellbeing. So can y'all describe what social wellbeing actually is? Yeah, that's a great question. So, um, so social wellbeing is we, we found a definition for it. Uh, it's called the ability to communicate, develop meaningful relationships with others.

Maintain a support network that helps you overcome loneliness and overcome other concerns. And then if you really just think about it, social wellbeing is your, your ability to be part of relationships, connections, and have a support system and feel like you're not alone in this world. Okay. So why is that important?

Maybe particularly now during the pandemic. Yeah. So right now in the pandemic where we do have all of the sort of physical restrictions, we're not able to maybe spend as much time in person with others that can like social wellbeing can take a hit. There is as humans, we like to interact with people socially.

So right now it's more important to be intentional in how we're engaging in these things remotely or. You know, safely making sure that our relationships are still sort of being developed, keeping connections, making new connections and engaging with our support systems now more than ever. Yeah, for sure.

So can you describe what some of the facets of social wellbeing are? Yeah, that's, that's a great question. And, uh, you know, w when we think about that, especially for. For college students or people who may have taken a new job in a new place. Um, it's easy to forget that part of your social wellbeing is those preexisting connections and strengths that, that you came into the university with, you know, friends from home family, from Harlem, um, there's structures and people that, that you already have intact.

Um, but, but it's also, um, it also includes creating new structures, new friendships, new connections, um, And, and, um, really having a place to explore some of your community and passions and interests. Um, and so we think like having these safe places to, to be supported and encouraged as you're trying new things and trying to.

Make your way at college, um, is, is really important that can help us overcome challenges. Yeah. And some other things that go into social wellbeing is having sort of like the interpersonal skills to build these connections. So things like, like gratitude or kindness or your own sort of styles of communication.

Those things will make it easier for us to have positive interactions with others and sort of decrease our own loneliness and feel meaningful connection. So having those skills and developing those on your own is a big component of social wellbeing. And going with that, um, engaging in fun activities with groups, individuals who share similar interests, those that's a big part of social well-being as well, but also finding some time alone, right.

Just to regroup. Recenter collect yourself and get some distance, some separation from a lot of the things that are going on as well. And when we think about that too, in how much it can take sometimes to engage in a lot of social interactions. Boundaries are important. Right. So making sure you're not stretching yourself too much, giving too much of yourself, make sure you're being challenged.

Right. But still taking time for yourself and making sure that you are okay in all of those interactions. Yeah. Well, I think one of the things, um, about, you know, building boundaries is being able to say no to things. Uh, so I, you know, I've been in this field for almost nine years at this point, and I can't tell you like how many students that I've met, who are just burning the candle at both ends, because they're over involved in what they're doing.

Um, and so it's to the detriment of their overall wellbeing at the end of the day. And so our graduate student, Kelsey actually came up with a great equation for how to sort of say no to things and help you draw those boundaries. So the equation. Is thank you. Plus unfortunately, plus redirect equals healthy boundary.

So for example, if you have, and this is an example that she created, so let's say that you have a chemistry test on Thursday and it's Tuesday and your roommate says, Hey, do you want to go to yoga with me? But you know that you have to study because you haven't put in the time and going to yoga would be about a two hour block of time that you really could use to look over material.

So you can say. You know, thank you so much. Normally I'd love to go. Unfortunately, I have to study for this exam that I have on Thursday. Um, but you know what hit me up next week when I don't have an exam and it's like, boom, there it is. You say, no, you still maintain the relationship and you now have time to study.

So that's what she came up with. And I thought it was great. That's a fabulous formula, Courtney and I really like it too, because, um, you know, we know that. College students. Um, um, some, sometimes, uh, women really struggle with saying no. And, and we know also that we do better socially when we, uh, when we know what fills our tank and we give our space that ourselves space to have room, um, To, to like, not deplete the take.

So that's really important to be able to, you know, that's part of this, this process in life and, and growing is figuring out what is it that those might take? Who is it that fills my take. And then how can I. Say no in a, in a kind, but still fair way that allows me to create space, to protect myself and, and allow myself to grow and flourish.

I don't have to be all things to all people. Yeah. And that, I mean, that starts, I mean, so young and it continues well into adulthood because even in a professional setting, There are times when you have to say no, because especially if it's something that's maybe not within your initial job description, it's like a extra committee or to help on a research project.

And you know that you don't have the bandwidth to help. Uh, so you have to be able to say, Thank you, but I can't do it. I'm a big fan of saying no, it's like my fists. So back to overall social well-being. Um, so how can you find a here at WVU? Yeah, so like we talked about earlier, it's definitely harder now, right?

Because of all the COVID restrictions. And so right now, maybe we're in a position where you have to do a little bit more of the leg work to be able to get connected with others and. With, with thinking about that, that can be kind of scary, but also that gives you the chance to be intentional, right?

About where you want to put your energy, how, and with whom you want to connect. So in building some of those relationships, things to think about as you're, you know, at WVU right now is building relationships in areas that are related to your major and your professional goals. So building those connections, getting.

Sort of involved there, but also making some relationships and connections that are just for fun. Right. So having a balance of those two things. And making sure that you're still spending time with friends, whether that is virtually. So there's a lot of things you can do over zoom with games or sharing playlist, watching things together.

And it's actually pretty interesting that we, we filed a statistic for a study that was published in the journal of social and personal relationships. And they kind of calculated that on average, it takes about 50 hours of time spent with someone before you consider them just like casual friend. 90 hours for you to think about them as like a real friend and then 200 hours to become close friends.

So those numbers can sound kind of large and maybe unattainable right now. But it's important to just again, think about with whom you're spending your time and how. As you're trying to build these connections, man. No wonder. It's like so hard to make friends as an adult because who has time to spend one seriously?

Oh goodness. So, um, we talked about like the process a little bit. So where are some good places for students to start here at the university to maybe build those connections? That's a great question, Courtney, and you know, something that you think, and I wanted to share with. With everyone who's listening is it's okay.

If this is scary and hard, um, you know, for, for most people in a non pandemic year, it's really hard to make friends. You know, something that we talk with many, many of our clients about is how difficult it is to feel connected, to, um, reach out, to make friends. And often people think that. You know, this is just me.

It's just, there's just a problem with me. I, you know, whether you're a college student or a professional, um, it can feel like everybody else has their group and I'm just the one left out. Um, but what we have found is that it's a more common experience than not have for people to feel kind of isolated or lonely.

And so we did think about what are some ways to help, um, To help think about how can you take that initial plunge and how can you, how can you do it in a way, like you face that that is intentional and that keeps that science in mind that you need to kind of put in a lot of time with, with a person doing a lot of shared activities so that you do build that kind of mutual ground where you do consider them a close friend.

The one, one way we'd like to, um, one area we'd like to encourage students towards is the refresh website. It's refresh that wvu.edu and every week there are new activities listed there. Um, in a number of different categories, like physical well-being, um, virtual, they have all kinds of different events that you can invite, uh, invite a floor mate to, they don't even need to be your friend yet.

They can become, your friend might go into one of these events. Um, if you're. Uh, only doing virtual things right now. They have some events that are just virtual, that even include, um, like you can pick up a packet of, of something to do together, um, on the, the virtual event. So that you're all kind of doing the same art craft at the, at the same time.

Uh, but they also have a lot of in-person events that are, that are following COVID protocols. Um, some of them are with us at the Carruth Center. We do some outdoor wellbeing workshops on Tuesday afternoons at 4:00 PM. And we would love to have people come to that. Um, Adventure West Virginia is another great place to, uh, to find resources for connection.

Uh, you can go to, if you just Google WVU. Followed venture activities. You will, you'll come to a list of all of these different followed venture activities that are usually one to four hours in length. And, um, you can sign up with a friend or go by yourself. The whole idea is that you get connected to other people.

They help you become friends with them. You can share your contact information, and then you go do something fun together. So it's not just like, okay, let's go eat together at the diner. You might go. Paddling or you might go hiking or you might go explore campus or you might do macrame outside. Um, so we would really encourage students to check out those two resources and, and again, that's refreshed at WVU you and WVU all adventure activities.

And then EFA has some other, um, other ideas to share too. Yeah. Yeah. So we've got the WVU student org website that you can go to. So that's WVU engaged dot, wvu.edu forward slash organizations. And I think that one is really cool because I'm not, you can search for like all of the crazy, like random clubs out there by like area of interest or what it covers or different groups that you might be interested in.

And it can be a little bit overwhelming because there is so much, but again, if you think about. Maybe I want to get connected with some groups or related to my major or my, my professional development. And then also like some that are just totally for fun, something new that you want to try out. Right. So massive buffet, you know, you can try all, all the things that are interesting to you, just remembering, being intentional with your energy and how to do that.

So that's a pretty cool place to search as well. And Sarah did mention the Carruth Center. So your main connection to the groups that she spoke about, but we also have other, um, I guess, groups here that you could potentially get connected with. So we've got support groups just for meeting with, with other students.

And we have facilitators just to be able to share in some of what's going on and support each other in a sense we've got workshops as well. So, so those are just like three week workshops and helping you learn more about a particular topic that will help you sort of. Your will be getting connected, things like that.

And then general therapy. If that is something that feels appropriate for you right now. And Courtney and unplug well WVU. I'm sure you can say more to that as well. And then there's collegiate recovery. We do want to mention that, although that is again, more specific to maybe some substance use concerns, but if that's something that you do need to get connected and support with, that's also available.

That's it? That's a great point. And I, I want to apply collegiate recovery again, um, in the sense too, that they do a ton of. Like a big part of their focus is helping, um, our campus to have really fun things you can do to connect with other people that are sober. Um, and, and one thing that's neat about them is they're open to people who are in recovery or people who are allies of, of those in recovery.

So you don't, you don't have to be in recovery to, to go and hang out. You just need to be. I'm supportive of those in recovery and, and supportive of a sober environment, which I think is great because then you can really form. I had closer relationships through some of these shared activities. And though, like with COVID restrictions, serenity place, which is where the collegiate recovery program is housed.

It's not open as often as it usually is, but there are some still open and they have a lot of online yeah. Activities as well via zoom. So take advantage of the CRP cause. I'll also, I'm a third I'll plug that in, um, of their virtual activities they have is, uh, led by one of our fantastic Ruth clinicians, uh, Amica pain.

And, uh, and that she has a weekly discussion group there that's open to anyone who wants to come. So we would definitely encourage people to check that out. We've heard really great things about it. Yes. Well, all of that sounds phenomenal. I'll second their refresh plug. Uh, just because we've, I think we've all been doing a lot of work with that particular program.

So definitely take advantage of that. Um, so this week for our wellbeing snapshot, I actually have a message. From a student here on campus who actually does some work with the depression and bipolar support Alliance. And so they've asked me to just sort of give a little bit of information about their program and if you want to get involved.

Um, so the depression and bipolar support Alliance is a national organization with a statewide chapter, which is called DVSA. WV, which is right here in West Virginia, uh, and their mission is to improve the lives of folks living with the most prevalent mental health issues, which is depression and bipolar disorder.

So DVSA supports research to promote more timely diagnoses and develop more effective and tolerable treatments. And they work to ensure that folks living with mood disorders are treated equally by facilitating expert guest speakers. They maintain over 700 peer led support groups across the country, and they provide educational and self-help.

Tools. So, uh, the demand for their services has greatly increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is understandable because there are a lot of folks who are struggling with that isolation component. Um, many people who suffer from mood disorders have experienced worse than defects, uh, due to loneliness and isolation as a result of the social distancing measures.

So DVSA fosters a community of support. Or in self-improvement. So if you're interested in receiving any of those services through DVSA or working as an outreach assistant, you can visit their webpage, which I'll also put in the description for this podcast, but it's DVSA wv.org and you can also find them on Instagram and Facebook.

So what's cool is that they have a chapters. Specific for WVU students. And the group meetings are held on the first and third, Wednesday of the month at 8:30 PM via zoom. And then to join a meeting, you would need to email the representative. It's a student named Sadie Miller and she'll well, she'll send you the meeting passcode.

I'll also put her contact information in the description for the podcast as well, in case you're interested in getting involved because those groups are actually just a real good time to meet with other folks connect and just talk. Um, so if you want to take advantage of that, it's a, it's a really great resource.

I know that they're also working with actually up in the Carruth Center does to, uh, promote this particular service and we're in, we're happy to help in that regard too. So, uh, thank you all for letting me give that little plug for them. Um, all right, well, thank you to Sarah and Ife, I really appreciate you all being here today and taking time out of your day.

Thank you to all of our listeners out there, all 16 of you. I used to say 13, but I feel like now we have at least 16 like diehard listeners. Uh, but thank you so much. And we'll catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesdays.