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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Center helps students manage stress

Stress is a natural part of life. School, kids and money problems can all contribute to tension. Unfortunately, a growing number of New Mexico State University students must deal with each of these pressures on a daily basis.

A group of parents and children make holiday ornaments at NMSU's Family Resource Center. (Photo courtesy Bill Faulkner)

There's a place dedicated to helping students manage stress, but most have no idea it's there. The Family Resource Center is in its fifth year at NMSU and it's available to any student, on or off of campus.

"The university is dedicated to extension and outreach, but few of our programs focus on the people living inside the university itself," said Esther Devall, a Family and Child Science professor at NMSU. She helps to oversee the Family Resource Center. "These students are in our own backyard, but they are underserved. We're trying to change that."

The program is a partnership between the Family and Consumer Sciences Department and the Extension Home Economics Department. NMSU Student Family Housing provides space, rent and maintenance for the center, which is housed in three buildings on campus.

According to Devall, the kind of student living in campus housing has changed over the last 30 years. Before, it was young couples. She said now there are a lot of single parents, or couples who are both students. Other students are now older with children of their own in middle school or high school. She said these circumstances can lead to increased stress.

Devall believes it's too easy for stress to reach a dangerous level, and that's when things can escalate further into domestic violence. "Many cases of child abuse and other violence inside the home can be directly related to stress," said Devall. "The goal is to help students before things ever reach that level."

The program helps students who are stressed, but it also helps other students studying Family and Consumer Sciences gain experience. The center offers marriage and family therapy once a week. Here, graduate students studying marriage and family therapy get real-world experience helping others while being supervised by a licensed therapist.

Devall said the student counselors in the family therapy sessions don't necessarily search for the problems in the relationship. Instead, they look to see how a person's strengths can be used to solve the problem.

Additionally, the center offers parenting classes where students again work with others and learn how to handle situations while also helping other students in need.

Some students are training to be high school or middle school teachers and must put together a workshop as part of their training. Some workshops at the center include crafts and safety demonstrations.

Nutrition education is another important program offered by the Family Resource Center. Two nutrition educators make sure kids are getting the vitamins and nutrition they need to stay healthy. WIC, a state-run program for the distribution of food benefits to women, infants and children, uses the center to help about 50 clients each week.

Devall said in the summer and fall of 2005, student family therapists provided free counseling to 32 couples and families. In that same time period, the Family Resource Center provided nearly 2,000 hours of direct service to students and families.

The center relies on student fees to keep the program running. Last year it received $27,200 from Associated Students of NMSU to pay two graduate students and a licensed professional to supervise the therapy session. The money also covers phone lines, office supplies and other items.

Devall said the Family Resource Center would like to offer more, but it doesn't have the people or money to do it. She said the center is looking for grants and other funding to stay open longer and provide additional services.

The Family Resource Center is located at 3425 Espina St. The phone number is (505) 646-2065.