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College offers support, counseling

Ivan Vargas
Christiana Dawson, left, and Cathy Dawson carry the banner in the Out of the Darkness walk for suicide awareness in April on the Newark campus. Campus safety officer Stewart Dawson, Christiana's brother and Cathy's son, killed himself in 2010.

Oden, D., Staff writer

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Stress, depression and other mental illnesses can be college-long battle for some students. With programs like STEP UP Ohlone and mental counseling available by appointment, though, there is help; students just need to know about it.
“We take a holistic approach that our students emotional, mental, and physical health all depend on how they’re feeling and how they’re doing in school,” said Sally Bratton, director of the Student Health Center.
Bratton started the health center in January 1996, and more funding and services have become available over the years. Some of the services include primary and urgent care, TB testing, physicals, immunizations, over-the-counter medications, community health referrals, and smoking cessation.
In 2004, Rosemarie O’Neill was hired as the mental health counselor and life coach.
She is a licensed marriage and family therapist who ran her own practice before she joined Ohlone’s staff. She’s been a practitioner for more than 25 years. O’Neill now specializes in addressing student relationships and coping with life issues.
“We wouldn’t really have suicide if people felt they could get help,” she said. “But I think there’s that stigma of ‘oh, there’s something wrong with me.’”
Students can be embarrassed or ashamed to address mental health issues, and this is a leading factor in why some people will never discuss their emotional issues or address the true problems at hand.
For those who do, though, the results can be remarkable.
“The mental health program helped me tremendously after bouts of depression and an anxiety attack,” student Khalil Iqbal said. “Rosemary, my therapist and life coach, was able to provide me with the tools to proactively deal with depression and anxiety through nutrition, exercise, self-exploration and creative expression. By implementing these tools diligently in my life I was able to change my perspective on various stresses of life and strategies for dealing with them.”
Studies show that when students are addressed with stressful life issues, they have a tendency to let their schoolwork and personal life falter.
“When I first came to Ohlone and met Dr. Sally and her staff, it was after the worst time in my life,” student Jenn Shue said. “They were the first people I felt I could really open up to and get the help I needed. … Outside of Ohlone there wasn’t a lot of help, and it wasn’t designed for students.”
O’Neill offers students up to six counseling sessions per semester. The student health center is available to all students with or without current medical insurance for only $19 per semester.
Entering college can be a tough time in a young adult’s life, especially if he or she has decided to leave home in order to do so. O’Neill helps students learn all of the basics of living in the real world, coping skills for dealing with the stresses of life.
“It’s good to talk about problems,” she said. “There’s stress in our lives. We’re a busy culture. We have so much going on. There’s no reason to think we have to hold that inside and on our shoulders.”
Ohlone also has an outreach program, STEP Up Ohlone that has been hosting numerous events around campus to raise awareness about mental health and invite student and faculty participation.
“That’s our big campaign to educate people about mental health and to try really sincerely to break the stigma that it means there’s something wrong with us if we have an emotional problem,” O’Neill said.
For more information, go to To see a personal counselor, or visit a primary care provider for a check up, call 510-659-6258 to make an appointment, visit the third floor of Building 7 or go to
Staff writers Albert Rebosura, Maria Garcia-Hernandez, Martha Nunez and Mitchell Walther contributed to this report.

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The student news site of Ohlone College
College offers support, counseling