Wellness Fair Has Message for Students

Students stuffed bags, pockets and hands not just with candy, but with apples, travel brochures and condoms Wednesday at the Union Ballroom.

Booths from what appeared to be a random assortment of organizations?Council Travel, the Bennion Community Service Center, The Cleft Christian Ministry, SLOC?came to acquaint students with the holistic concept of health at the Wellness Fair.

Wellness is more than not being sick, according to Joan Rawlins, director of student health at the University of Utah, and the fair was intended to highlight its physical, spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual, aspects. “We attempt to assist in finding balance in all those,” she said.

It used to be that doctors at Student Health Service prescribed medicine to students who came in with the flu.

“Now they ask, ‘Why did you get the flu? How is school? How are your parents?'” said Amra Lee, Student Health Advisory Committee chairwoman.

A student’s life is not necessarily a healthy one. Rawlins sees students overburden themselves intellectually, neglecting other elements of their lives.

A survey of U students found that depression?often the result of stress?is high on the list of concerns, she said. Students also complained of back pain and injuries.

“We were rather surprised by that,” Rawlins said. Back problems probably have dual causes: lack of exercise and overburdened backpacks.

Many U students are older, have families and commute. Even for those just handling classes and work, balancing roles can be stressful.

“That’s probably the biggest challenge to wellness management,” said Lauren Weitzman, a University Counseling Center psychologist.

Everyone reacts differently to strain, but it is at the heart of many problems brought to the center

“Some people may get anxious, some get depressed,” she said.

In some ways, the U’s student body is comparatively healthy.

A national survey in 1999 found about 44 percent of students had participated in binge, or high risk, drinking during a two-week period.

At the U, closer to 20 percent of students had done the same, according to SHS. Drug and tobacco use at the U is also lower than the national average.

“There is a perception that college students are using a lot of alcohol, drugs and tobacco,” said Lisa Mountain, alcohol and drug education coordinator.

But the perception is not entirely accurate.

For example, about 10 percent of those surveyed said they had used marijuana in the previous month. But 65 percent believed their peers were getting high.

This perception may encourage some to use substances so a reality check is an important part of education, she said.

Aside from its predominant religious culture, which prohibits alcohol, tobacco and drug use, the U is also a commuter campus?not the sort of social environment that fosters substance abuse, said Paul Harman, president of Speak Out, a student group affiliated with the Alcohol and Drug Education Center.

In general, U students do not always take full advantage of the health-related services available on campus.

“I think the SHS is one of the most overlooked resources on campus. Students tend not to know we even exist,” Rawlins said.

Older, nontraditional students do come in. They may be more aware because of children and past experience. Younger, traditional students are pretty oblivious to the SHS’ presence on campus, she said.

“I think its one of those areas that people tend not to think about,” she said.

As long as students aren’t bedridden, they tend to think they’re OK, said Gheeta Smith, a U student wandering between tables at the fair.

“I’m definitely on the lack-of sleep end,” Smith said. But overall she feels pretty healthy.

“I exercise, I have a good social base, I eat,” she said.

“Most of us can’t afford to eat,” said her friend, Serena Serassio.

Spirituality can be a comfort, it’s something Smith falls back on, but busy students tend to put it on the back burner.

Spirituality is the most important thing to Cecilee Orme, director of The Cleft University Ministry.

“We feel, without Jesus, you don’t have anything. Everything else you spend time to obtain won’t get you anywhere and won’t change your life,” she said.

Not only religion, but traveling, can stimulate the spirit, according to Marty Petersen, a student in full Captain America costume seated behind the Council Travel booth.

“I think its kind of a mind and spirit thing,” he said. “You can tell it broadens a person’s perception of the world.”

Andrea Logsdon, a U student, wandered through the fair sipping a cup of Chartwell’s soup.

“I came last year and I loved it,” she said. “The food is the biggest thing.” Free condoms and a mug were nice, too.

This year the fair featured about 80 vendors?more than last year, according to Megan Nibley, a SHAC member.

“If they want to come, they have to give stuff to students, give students an education or something to take home,” Lee said.

Elsewhere in the Union, ARUP collected 19 pints of blood, four more than their goal.

SHS gave out 114 meningitis vaccines. They had planned to give out 96. It sent a letter to all 18- to 21-year-old students last week, warning them about the danger of meningitis to students. College freshmen in dormitories are more susceptible to meningitis than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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