Attending the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is a vital part of Megan Sonnenmoser’s quest for mental health, and she wants her experience to help other students on campus as well.
Sonnenmoser, a 34-year-old history major from Kansas City, Mo., has battled mental health matters as long as she can remember. They impacted every aspect of her life, including her education.
“Years ago when I was in college in Missouri, my home state, I would just not show up for class, but not drop out either,” Sonnenmoser said. “And my transcripts looked really awful because of that.”
Her struggles culminated when she admitted herself to a hospital in the midst of a major depressive episode.
“That was really hard, getting hospitalized,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I was just turning into something I didn’t recognize.”
The hospitalization and the therapy that followed helped get Sonnenmoser back on the right track. She developed healthy coping mechanisms. Her therapist recommended she enroll in college as a way to practice her responsibility for her health. She decided to try UAFS.
“It’s a miracle I got admitted here,” she said. “I know what my transcripts looked like.”
Today, Sonnenmoser is proud of how far she’s come. She credits the close-knit campus and supportive faculty and staff at UAFS for her continued personal improvement.
“I am proud that I have good attendance, good grades, good standing with financial aid, good standing with my professors,” she said. “I did not useto be like this. I call myself a lioness, and I am so proud to be one.”
She hopes to turn her experiences into help for struggling students through a registered student organization to raise awareness of mental health.
“Today, we’re talking more about mental illness, but we’re still sweeping a lot of stuff under the rug,” she said. “There’s still a huge elephant in the room when it comes to this, so I want to destigmatize it and just say it’s OK if you have it, and it’s OK if you need to learn about anything this group can teach you.”
She says the purpose of her group is to not only spread awareness of different psychological issues that could be affecting college studentsbut also to assist family and friends of anyone who might be struggling.
“I know a lot of students just, they suffer. Even if you’re a non-trad like me, even if you’re older, college is hard.I want there to be a very safe, supportive environment for any students who need something like that and anybody who has a loved one that’s going through a tough time. I want them to feel free to come in and learn how to talk to them, learn about healthy coping mechanisms, learn how to be part of a healthy support system.”
To assist students in managing the stress and overwhelming nature of college, the Student Counseling Clinic, located in the Pendergraft Health Sciences Center, is available Monday through Friday to address students’ psychiatric, behavioral and emotional needs. The clinic is staffed by licensed mental health professionals, and students are eligible for up to eight sessions per year at no charge. All appointments are confidential and can be scheduled in advance, though walk-ins are also welcome.
If you are interested in joining the mental health awareness RSO, please contact Christa Jumper at firstname.lastname@example.org.