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Events | NewsMarch 23, 2023

Employee Mental Health Top of Mind for UAFS Human Resources

Written By: Ian Silvester

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith prides itself on having some of the most dedicated and highly-qualified faculty and staff in the country – experts who choose to bring their knowledge and skill to the River Valley. To help ensure the people who make UAFS unique choose to stay in Fort Smith, the university has invested in a series of wellness programs both on and off campus to keep mental health top of mind.
Next month, the university will mark the halfway point in a 12-part series of events with Dr. Jackie Scarborough, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Fort Smith who specializes in helping patients work through anxiety, depression, and self esteem.
On March 13, a session focused on emotional intelligence, centering on overcoming grief and despair through open communication about needs, feelings, and the impermanence of challenges. 
“Everybody can benefit from therapy,” said Scarborough, even if that means starting with entry-level group conversations like those being hosted at the university. 
“Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma about mental health,” said Scarborough. “I hope one day, I can say that’s not the case.”Mental health encouragement
Working to erase that stigma was a factor in creating the employee series, said Mandy Keyes, Director of Human Resources, who was a driving force behind the project.
“Attendance has been consistent month after month, and it seems employees are eager to participate,” says Keyes. “Anytime we can offer wellness sessions or events for employees, the goal is to support them as both employees and as humans. Raising awareness and opening the conversation about mental health is just one more way to do that.”
Each session in the series stands alone, so there is no barrier to entry for those who can only attend one or two. For those who are able to attend them all, though, there are building blocks to form a more complete understanding of mental health care. 
Keyes said the last session of the semester is expected to be especially impactful. “Places We Go with Others” will be held on Friday, April 28. This session will focus on compassion, pity, empathy, sympathy, boundaries, and comparative suffering – all essential topics in education.
“Just taking an hour to get away and focus on yourself and think about some things other than what you’re anxious about at that moment can be a good thing, even with tough emotions,” says Dr. Scarborough. 
The second half of the 12-part series will resume during the fall semester, and the Department of Human Resources is already in discussions to host another series next year.
“The health and well-being of our employees is vital to their success and ours, and we believe this type of experience allows us to come alongside employees and support them as a member of our team and family,” said Keyes.
Sessions last about an hour, which experts say is a critical time to engage in wellness work and feel refreshed and recharged.
Keyes encourages all faculty and staff to keep an eye on their email for monthly registrations and information on the next session. She also wants to remind employees about the assistance program to recognize signs of needing help and how to approach helping someone in need. 

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