Bounce back, Jacks! NAU Health Promotion offers Resilience Project to help students overcome adversity

Everyone experiences good times and challenging times. But how do you respond in those challenging times? NAU Health Promotion is launching the NAU Resilience Project, an online toolkit that helps students build healthy coping skills and learn about wellness resources to help them “bounce back” in the face of adversity.

Starting as a pilot project at Florida State University, The Resilience Project was developed to address mental health support for students. Recognizing that the project could benefit its students, NAU became the first university to adopt and implement the program. The National College Health Assessment data for NAU has shown that stress, sleep and anxiety are the top three health barriers to academic achievement. By going through the project and modules, students receive information and resources on topics related to their wellness and help support persistence throughout college and beyond.

“We’re living in a pandemic, and we could all use some resilience right now. Life during COVID-19 is brand new for all of us, and it has significantly changed our everyday lives. College life looks different, and that can impact how students feel,” said Melissa Griffin, director of Health Promotion. “This project helps students learn to cope if they are feeling isolated or overwhelmed.”

By using an online, evidence-based, universal public health-style prevention program, students can strengthen their emotional and academic coping skills. It encourages self-awareness and personal growth by focusing on strength-based training. Moreover, it is intended to destigmatize mental health issues and encourage help-seeking. In addition to connecting students with NAU resources, the modules provide simple action items for those feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed.

“There are a lot of people that face similar problems and there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Denise Ocampo, a senior studying biomedical sciences, said. “I think people feel the need to put up a facade of confidence and push away their traumas, which eventually catches up with you. This project helped me realize that trauma/hardships are normal, and for our own mental health, it is important to cope with them and learn from the experiences.”

As the president of two clubs, Student Health Advisory Council and Mental Health Support Quad, Ocampo believes this project is a fun and interactive way to build grit.

She also said she enjoyed the resources provided, especially for students of color and LGBTQ+ populations, and helped her learn coping mechanisms for challenges she, and her peers, may face.

“I would like to see our students feel confident in their ability to push through adversity and feel equipped to take on their next challenge in their lives,” said Kristen Natonie, a health educator with Health Promotion. “I also hope students will continue to access the module throughout their time at NAU.”

Though it is not required, students, especially new students like freshmen or transfer students who might face challenges with the transition to college, are encouraged to take advantage of the project resources. Faculty and staff also can familiarize themselves with the project so they can offer support to students who may come to them in a time of need.

“Campus Health Services and Student Affairs is really proud to be able to offer this unique program to help support students’ mental well-being during this particularly stressful time,” said Julie Ryan, assistant vice president of Health and Wellness.

“It is an NAU priority to help students thrive by providing a culturally competent program that increases students sense of belonging and connectedness,” Griffin said. “This project does just that.”