Photo of Kelli Sinclair
Kelli Sinclair

“Happy New Year” is a greeting we’ve heard and seen a lot during the past few weeks. While friendly and innocuous enough, the greeting can gloss over the fact that many of us are anything but happy during the cold, dark months of winter. With the holidays behind us, January is a good time to take stock of our personal mental wellness and that of our family and friends.

Just as there are things we can all do to improve our physical wellness, there are small steps we can take every day to improve our mental wellness. Of course, the “physical” and “mental” realms are not mutually exclusive. Physical wellness activities such as healthy eating, moderate exercise, and adequate sleep have been proven to have a positive impact on mental wellness.

Taking stock of your mental wellness involves a few more questions. Are you able to recognize your own areas of personal strength and resilience? Have you found any positive self-care activities that work for you? Do you have (or can you take steps to build) a social network of family and/or friends? Having close personal connections (people we can laugh with, support and be supported by) is a crucial tie to mental wellness.

Professional help is important when we become overwhelmed and can’t find relief from anxious or depressive thoughts or feelings. A recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune points out that societal perceptions of mental health have changed, with less stigma and a greater willingness to seek help among young people. This is a good thing!

Waubonsee serves a community need by training more professionals to provide mental health services in our community. Our Human Services faculty has decades of first-hand experience in the field, which gives our students an excellent foundation in both theory and practice. The Human Services programs in Addictions Counseling are professionally accredited and sought by undergraduate students and experienced post-master’s professionals alike!

If you are interested in learning how to become a better mental health supporter and advocate in our community, I encourage you to consider a “Mental Health First Aid” seminar. Waubonsee is one of a few local organizations which offers this nationally-recognized full-day seminar. This is not a professional counseling course; it is designed for educators, health care professionals, first responders, or anyone interested in learning how to be a better supporter for the mental health of people around them.

Waubonsee is also committed to providing educational counseling support for our students. Our team provides short-term personal and crisis counseling to those students who need support to stay on track in college. Our counselors often serve as a bridge to connect students to therapists and other mental health services in our community. We take pride in the community partnerships that help our students. One example is the 24/7 anonymous crisis line for students in partnership with the Association of Individual Development. We also partner with Mutual Ground Aurora on prevention and awareness activities related to sexual assault and misconduct. Visit to learn more about our college and community resources.

It is fairly easy for us to see when a friend or family member is physically injured or not well. The symptoms are often visible and we are often comfortable offering help with these visible indicators. Mental wellness is harder to see in others and even in ourselves. Take steps today to pay more attention to mental wellness. Check in with friends and family members. Ask how they are doing. They, and you, will be glad you did.

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