According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses. College students easily feel anxious trying to balance school, work, friends, relationships and family while also gearing up to venture into the rest of their lives. The APSU Health and Services center is a judgment-free environment that works to empower students and keep their heads up during these very trying years.

“From Freak to Flow” is a group class that the Health Center has to offer. The idea behind the group is to aid students who struggle more than others with managing strong emotions.

“We do not have to be scared of the perceived negative emotional states that we experience. We can learn to see them as mere sensations that eventually pass through us. You can be taught how to do this,” Counselor and Training Coordinator John DeMarco said.

All the direct-care services at the Health Center are provided by licensed professionals. DeMarco received his Master of Arts of Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University in 2008. After, he spent 6 years working for a non-profit community mental health clinic in a high need area. DeMarco’s motivation to provide for the class comes from his personal experience in a traumatic upbringing and finding a way out through self-discovery and education.

“This group is personally important to me because as a child I grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive home. I know personally the impact this can have,” DeMarco said. “My heart is with those who are hurting, and suffering and I desire to see them find some healing like I have found.”

In the group, students learn, and practice exercises each week that teach them how to use mindfulness, tolerate distressful feelings, regulate their strong emotions and improve personal interactions with those around them.

DeMarco is tasked with encouraging group attendance, checking in each week with participants about their homework and encourage them to realize the full potential of some inner resources already within them waiting to be tapped.

For DeMarco and the other staff members at the Health Center, progress is seeing emotional situations be overcome efficiently and confidently.

DeMarco understands the stigma behind seeking group therapy but encourages students to take their first step towards a healthier state of mind with others.

“Whenever group therapy is suggested to someone seeking mental health treatment they usually balk at the suggestion. However, from my experience, once people try group therapy, they usually love it,” DeMarco said. “People discover that they are more similar to others than they realize and find themselves being accepted for who they are. Some people would call this ‘community.’”

Each “From Freak to Flow” session builds off of the previous one so no more students are able to enter this current go round.

However, if you are interested in being part of the next group, or if you want more information on other activities and groups that are available, visit the APSU Health and Services center in the Ard Building at 524 College St.