University Health and Counseling Services
Ambrose Center

Mental Health

Articles and Brochures:

Ulifeline (Complete a self-assessment to learn telling insights about your current state of mind. The Self e-Valuator provides a valuable and objective perspective if or when you're struggling with troubling thoughts. This is a confidential and anonymous mental health screening. The Self e-Valuator found here was developed for Ulifeline by Duke University Medical Center. )


Suicide signs and crisisline

National Suicide Prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Hopeline is 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

A suicidal person urgently needs to see a health or mental health service provider.

Here are some warning signs you should know about:

  • Talk about suicide
  • Statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness.
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Unusual visiting or calling people one cares about.
  • Making arrangements; setting one's affairs in order.
  • Giving things away.

December Survival Guide

It's that time of year again; too much to do and not enough time to do it all! Final papers, final projects, final exams, cookies, cake, candy, latkes, eggnog, party punch, sitting around, family tension, overspending, unrealistic expectations, disappointment...

Here are some tips to help make December a healthy and joyful time.


  • To stay alert and release tension, take frequent study breaks. Take a brisk walk outside, fast dance to loud music, or do full body stretches.
  • Avoid too much caffeine or sugar. It can give you "coffee nerves" - trembling, nervousness, throbbing headache, irritability, and disorientation that can lower your performance on the exam.
  • Make sure you are eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every 3-5 hours to keep your mind and body functioning at their best.
  • Try to maintain consistent times for falling asleep and waking up so you can get enough rest to do your best on your exams. To help yourself fall asleep ask a friend to massage your neck and shoulders or do it yourself. Then focus on your breathing; gradually slowing it down. Don't allow yourself to think about the exam - just pay attention to your breathing. A cup of warm milk might help, but not alcohol. That will disrupt your normal sleep cycle.
  • Think positive! Repeat to yourself, "I am a capable student. I can write my ideas clearly. I can recall exam information."

Avoid or limit alcohol consumption so you can really enjoy your holiday events, not black them out or experience them through a fog.

  1. Try to have realistic expectations of yourself, your friends and your family. Real life isn't like the movies.
  2. Enjoy the special foods that are a part of your holiday tradition. Remember a little tastes just as good as a lot and you won't have that uncomfortable, overstuffed feeling. Your waistline and arteries will thank you.
  3. Get out and exercise. Burn off some of the extra calories and the frustrations of too much togetherness.
  4. Have fun visiting old friends, but don't expect things to be the same. Accept that all of you have changed.
  5. Reflect on the religious or cultural meaning of the holiday you celebrate.
  6. Laugh often, if only at the absurdity of life!

Five Ingredients of Intimacy

HONESTY, TRUST, RESPECT, COMMUNICATION AND TIME are the five ingredients necessary to defining and building intimacy. Each of these essential pieces has its own relevance and importance but together they form a solid foundation for building a relationship.


Whether we are talking about being honest with someone we are dating, or with ourselves, it is sometimes very difficult. We tend to always want to put ourselves in the best light.

Sometimes we aren't honest because we don't want to hurt someone else's feelings or cause conflict. Gentle honesty, as compared to brutal honesty, is an important life skill to learn. Avoiding the truth of a feeling or situation can often result in pain and bad feelings down the road. It has always been true that a good friend is the one who will tell you that your zipper is down, or you have something in your teeth. The same is true about other things that may hurt, but need to be said.

People who are deceitful, manipulative, and dishonest are often incapable of creating intimacy. You can't create an intimate relationship with someone who is only an illusion. We can only become intimate with another person's authentic self and others can only become intimate with our authentic selves.


Consistency, dependability, and stability are the building blocks of a trusting relationship. Promises broken, appointments missed, birthdays and anniversaries forgotten all tell someone about the relevance and value people place on the relationship. Trusting someone is a belief that you can count on them, that they will do what they said they would do. Trust cannot be compromised by work, alcohol, or a busy schedule.

Betrayal of one's confidences is a sure fire way to put distance in a relationship. Trust means you know the other person will not purposefully hurt you in any way. You can assume they will safeguard your welfare to the best of their ability.

When we mention the phrase "I was just making sure of you," it may take awhile to understand the depth of this statement. But if we look closer, we can uncover a deep truth. We go through our lives in a constant state of chaos and change. When we make sure of something, we ask for a commitment, we recheck our landmarks, we hold on to what is stable. Trust is the barometer by which we measure the level of confidence we have in our relationships.


Culturally, respect can be measured in many ways. Someone who is thoughtful, who has manners, who is polite is exhibiting signs of respect. We have done much work lately as a society empowering people to demand respect for themselves, to understand that their own self-esteem is built on how they are treated by others. However, so much energy has been focused "what I deserve" that we have forgotten about "what others deserve." In order to be truly intimate we must value the other person as much, not more or less, than we value ourselves.

A balance of the basics are needed. A healthy understanding of the values that make others important and understanding of what we all deserve as people are key. We should all live free of fear, free of aggression and violence, free from intimidation and free of oppression. These freedoms are by no means easy for us to achieve, but in our daily lives, the way we treat and respond to others does affect our sense of self worth.

Respect reflects the value, validation, and worth of another person. It is an essential ingredient to developing intimate relationships.


Communication is critical to the three ingredients already discussed. It is how we show our honesty, trust, and respect in a relationship. Listening to others and following through with reasonable needs and requests is a simple step in relating and communicating. The willingness, compromise, and sacrifice needed to listen however, can take years to develop.

In many books dedicated to relationships and couples, a simple technique is taught. A couple will sit face to face in two chairs. One person will make a statement. The other person will repeat that statement back with no edits, arguments, additions or deletions. This exercise focuses all the energy on listening to what is being said. This simple exercise helps break through obstacles-- like feeling threatened, defensive, aggressive, or passive--that can keep us from really hearing what our friends and partners are asking of us. The ability to ask and receive clear communicated messages can only make us feel closer and help us relate. The effort put into our communication relays a message: you are important enough to be listened to and you have a voice in this relationship.


One way we communicate our value for others is by the time we spend with them in activities. Nothing is more important in the creation and survival of healthy relationships than the time needed to develop honesty, trust, respect, and good communication.

Our schedules and our lives have gotten so chaotic and "time specific" that we are actually "out of time" most of the time. Time is rarely seen as an ingredient to a healthy relationship, but without it we can not develop the other parts of our lives that make us whole, caring, and intimate people.

If you took a piece of paper and made a schedule of the amount of time you spend actively working on developing your relationships, you would be astounded to perhaps find that the most lasting part of our lives, our relationships, gets less time a month than brushing our teeth!

Spending time, making time, quality time, whatever you want to call it, the value of sharing space with people you care about can never be underestimated.

Overcoming Hardship: How to Be More Resilient

Bad things happen to good people.

How well we recover from these setbacks depends on many factors. Here are a few you can consider to enhance resilience:

Authenticity: People who are the same on the inside as they are on the outside cope with hard times better than those who put up a front. Know your true self and express real feelings to family, friends, coworkers.

Responsibility: Willingness to be accountable for what you can control - that is, owning the problem - is the first step toward taking positive action to manage it. Try to take control, even in small ways, to build coping skills.

Flexibility: Those who bounce back can accept that change is inevitable and don't fight it. They're not afraid of it, but more often see it as opportunity. Embrace change as part of the normal pattern of live and adapt to it in a way that makes things better, not more difficult.

Responsiveness: Open-minded, aware individuals who study their environment and react positively to new ideas have more resilience than those who sit back and let the world happen to them. Adopt a life-long learning attitude as a way to more easily adjust to life's curve balls.

Faith: Not necessarily religious faith, but a belief in yourself, others, and the potential for good are traits in people who recover more easily. Whatever your convictions, foster commitment to them.

Risk Tolerance: Resilient individuals aren't afraid to take steps in a new direction. Seek support from friends and family to strike out on a new path.

Purpose: A belief in something beyond yourself - religion, nature, humanity - is another common characteristic. Allow time for thoughtful reflection and discussion of ideas around life purpose.

For more ideas read "The Art of Resilience: 100 Paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World" by Carol Orsborn

Acting Assertively

Expressing your feelings, thoughts, and needs without threatening others.

  • Are you confident without being overbearing?
  • Are you proud when you do something well?
  • Do you say what you feel without being hostile to others?

Putting others first at your expense.

  • Are you afraid others won't like you if you disagree with them?
  • Do you remain silent when something bothers you?
  • Is it difficult for you to give or receive criticism?

Putting yourself first at the expense of others.

  • Do you demand rather than ask?
  • Do you feel angry when others disagree with you?
  • Do you explode when someone criticizes you?

Pretending to put others first with dishonest communication and not respecting yourself enough to be honest about how you feel.

  • Do you feel bitterness and resentfulness towards others and yourself?
  • Do you try to "get even" with others?
  • When you don't want to do something do you say yes and then "forget" to do it?


Start with new communication skills.


  • Ask politely and firmly for what you want.
  • If a request is unreasonable, say so. Focus on the area of conflict and suggest a solution that would meet both of your needs, if possible.
  • Get to the point. Don't hedge or drop hints. Learn when to stop talking.


  • Look the other person in the eye.
  • Don't attack the other person. Instead, describe your feelings with "I" statements. Say, "I am upset that you didn't complete this on time", not, "You never complete things on time".
  • Your voice tone, inflection, and volume must reflect self confidence. A whispered monotone is not convincing, while shouting will put the other person on the defense. Don't use your voice to intimidate.


  • It's best not to confront someone in front of other people.
  • Sit or stand on the same level as the other person.
  • Rehearse with a friend; write out the first few sentences and the essential points you want to make.
  • Give yourself time to think through your response and consider the situation.


  1. Use confident body language.
    • Look the person straight in the eye; don't look down or away. This reflects the sincerity of what you are saying.
    • Face the person. Sit or stand comfortably with your shoulders back.
    • Make your facial expressions agree with the tone of your message. You cannot effectively express anger or displeasure while smiling or laughing.
  2. Be a good listener.
    • Give your full attention to the person who's speaking.
    • Show your interest by responding. Don't simply nod your head on agreement.
    • Summarize in your own words what the person said. It helps eliminate misunderstanding.
  3. Respect others.
    • Allow others to assert themselves, as well. Everybody has the right to express feelings and opinions.
    • Don't threaten, punish, or manipulate others. If you treat others with respect, they'll treat you with respect. Your relationships will be stronger, healthier, and more enjoyable when they're based on mutual respect.
  4. Respect yourself.
    • Recognize those things you do well; don't discount them because they're easy for you.
    • Take gradual steps toward overcoming your weaknesses. Reward yourself as you improve.


  • Act in ways that promote your dignity and self respect
  • Be treated with respect
  • Say no and not feel guilty
  • Slow down and take your time when making decisions
  • Change your mind
  • Ask for what you want
  • Do less than you are humanly capable of doing
  • Ask for information
  • Make mistakes
  • Feel good about yourself no matter who you are or what your status in life
  • Offer no reasons or excuses to justify your behavior
  • Be illogical in making decisions
  • Form and express your own opinions
  • Say "I don't care", "I don't understand", "I don't know"
  • Have and express feelings in ways which do not violate the dignity of other people (i.e. the right to feel tired, happy, depressed, angry, lonesome, silly, etc.)

When It Is More Than The Blues
Most college students say they feel "down " or "blue " every once in awhile, but people suffering from clinical depression have a body and mind illness that affects the way they eat, sleep and feel about themselves and the world. Most people grieve over experiences of loss and disappointment and gradually the grief becomes less. Those with clinical depression feel badly for weeks, months and sometimes years. They may not even know why they feel so sad and tired. They can not simply "get over it".

One out of every five adults may experience a depression at some point in their lives. Twice as many women as men suffer from depression, however men are more likely to die from suicide. The highest rates of depression are in 24-44 years olds. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people 15-25 years old. One of the best strategies for the prevention of suicide is the early recognition and treatment of depression.

The most common symptoms of depression are:

  • loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
  • changes in appetite
  • sleep difficulties
  • restlessness or sluggishness
  • decreased energy and extreme fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • feelings of guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness
  • persistent sad or empty mood
  • thoughts of death or suicide

The good news is that depression is highly treatable. Between 80 and 90% of all depressed people respond to treatment. Counseling can help people identify and cope with the factors that contribute to their depression in an atmosphere of acceptance and support. There are many helpful techniques including challenging negative though patterns, developing a positive self image, changing behaviors or life situations that are contributing to the problem, and developing an optimistic and accepting attitude. Treatment may also include medication, exercise, nutritional changes and changes in the use of alcohol, other drugs or even certain prescription medications.

When life Gets Rough, Treat Yourself with Compassion

Facing a very difficult situation or time in your life? Treat yourself with compassion.

New research shows that when you treat yourself kindly in the face of failure, rejection, defeat, or other negative event, you may be able to cope and feel better.

Although Western society has emphasized the importance of high self-esteem, having self-compassion may be more important in dealing with negative life events according to researcher and Wake Forest University psychologist Mark Leary, PhD.

"Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness you would show a friend whether you feel good about yourself or not," said Leary. "Self-esteem is simply feeling good about yourself."

In his research, Leary found that those with higher self-compassion were more likely to think "Everybody goofs up now and then" and less likely to think "I am such a loser" or "I wish I could die" in response to a distressing situation.

Source: News release Aug. 22, 2005, Wake Forest University

Laugh Your way to a Healthier You!
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. ~E.E. Cummings

Laugh. Give it a try; see how you feel. When you think of humor and health, Patch Adams, MD, is probably one of the first names that come to mind. He is notorious for using humor to relate to his patients and raise their spirits. But you don't need a doctor to tell you that laughter helps people feel better. Next time you're having a bad day, open a joke book or watch your favorite comedian and see how it affects your mood. Some physical and social benefits of laughter include: increased immune function, pain tolerance, lower blood pressure, muscle relaxation, stronger relationships, enhanced teamwork, and longevity. Laughter has also been shown to cause hormonal changes that lower one's stress level and increase the feel-good chemicals in the body. Laughter is the cheapest form of medicine and one that can never be over-prescribed.

The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) has made it their mission to, "practice and promote healthy humor and laughter." The official definition of therapeutic humor is, "any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression, or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life's situations. This intervention may enhance health or be used as a complementary treatment of illness to facilitate healing or coping, whether physical, emotional, cognitive, social, or spiritual." Note that humor affects not just one dimension of health, but five. For more information about AATH visit Other organizations that focus on laughter as medicine include, The Humor Collection ( and, Comedy Cures! (

Don't let the stressful tax season wear you down. Doctors orders, you need to laugh more! Uncle Albert from the Disney classic, Mary Poppins, sang it best, "The more I laugh, the more I fill with glee. And the more the glee, the more I'm a merrier me." Remember, laughter is contagious so use it in any setting to make yourself and the people around you perk up. Let's start right now... There are two muffins in the oven. One says "Man! It's burning up in here!" The other one says "Hey look! A talking Muffin!"

© 2010 National Wellness Institute, Inc. All rights reserved

Last Updated: 10/7/2019


All information on this website is written by UHCS professional staff unless otherwise noted. No data is collected on visitors to this site. Financial Support for this web site is provided by University Health & Counseling Service, Division of Student Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. This web site does not accept advertising.

This site is not meant to replace the advice of a health care or counseling professional. You should not rely on any information on these pages, or information generated for you by this site, to replace consultations with qualified professionals regarding your own specific situation. Some links take you to a source outside of UHCS. The owners of that site, not UHCS, are responsible for the content.