Kelsie Foster isn’t singing yet, but she’s making herself known
On-campus mental health support might be just a phone call away — or a trip to the office of Feather River College’s new behavioral mental health counselor.
Thanks to financial support from the Plumas County Behavioral Health program, students facing difficulties now have on-campus support.
That’s what Kelsie Foster told members of the FRC Board of Trustees in their regular meeting Thursday, Feb. 16, in Quincy.
As the newly hired counselor of mental behavior health, she’s lost no time in setting up the program.
“She already has appointments lined up,” said FRC President Kevin Trutna.
When Foster happened to see an advertisement for a small rural college looking for a counselor, she knew this might be just the job for her. Born in Washington State with ties to the San Juan Islands, Foster knew she wanted to find a place that offered peace and calm. Leaving behind her job as a mental behavior health counselor at the University of Rhode Island, she doesn’t seem to regret the move.
“I wanted a setting that was very calm,” she said. She didn’t want hustle and bustle in her life. She’s had plenty of that to last a long time.
“The timing in my life was finally right,” Foster said about her decision to move from Rhode Island to Quincy.
Although psychology is her chosen career, Foster actually began her college program as a classical vocalist and singing is still a passion. Her doctorate is in multicultural psychology from New Mexico State University.
She said she was amazed to find a multicultural opportunity on FRC’s small campus. At first she didn’t understand what the facts were telling her. How do so many people from so many cultures end up here? Now she’s learned that students come to this mountain campus from all over. She’s also learned that it couldn’t be better.
As she begins seeing students at FRC, she’s realizing that students here aren’t any different from other places.
Anxiety, not depression, is the number one mental health issue college students are dealing with, Foster told the board of trustees. Although they seemed a little surprised at the change, they avidly listened to her explanation.
The Oxford dictionary of psychology defines anxiety as “A state of uneasiness, accompanied by dysphoria (state of being unwell or unhappy) and somatic (affecting the body) signs and symptoms of tension, focused on apprehension of possible failure, misfortune or danger.”
Depression has led the way as the number one issue on college campuses for a long time. It hasn’t gone away by any means, but it has been edged out by another concern. Depression is defined by Oxford as “A mood or state of sadness, gloom and pessimistic ideation, with loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities,” that can typically lead to other major medical issues including insomnia.
In addition, one of the biggest reasons for the change, according to Foster is social media. People spend so much time using it they “lack coping skills,” or resiliency.
Many lack the social skills required for daily interaction with others. Those who constantly engage in social media — always on the cell phone, spending hours on Facebook, Twitter or the many similar chat or information programs that are “missing the human factor,” she said.
This often comes across as Foster is talking with a client. She said the person can be crying and anguishing over why someone is doing something, only to learn that the individual has never met the person causing the difficulties face-to-face. That doesn’t diminish the individual’s anxiety, but it gives Foster a new perspective on the problem. (As a note, Foster was not talking about any one individual, but as a generality.)
Social media isn’t the only cause for anxiety, Foster explained. The pressure to succeed, to be the best at whatever — student, athlete — is everywhere. Some parents are overly demanding that their child or children be the best, although some might not realize that they’re doing it, she explained.
They take their children to every organized activity, shuffling them in and out of the car from one thing to the next. Some don’t stop to find out if the child is interested in dance, gymnastics, all the sports opportunities. There seems to be a compelling need to involve their children in every possible thing and push them to become the best.
Many parents are driven to buy their children the latest laptop, notebook, cell phone or other gadgets, either believing they are helping their children get ahead academically — or as a social status. Parents seem to compete with other parents to see whose children have the most stuff.
There are also the parents and teachers whose focus is to see that children do well enough to enter the very best schools, Foster said. Nothing will do but an Ivy League school, often not taking into consideration that their children need time to be kids.
While wasting no time preparing herself and her new office to receive students, Foster has also included staff and faculty into her list of things to do.
Foster believes that it’s one thing when a student manages to make an appointment with her, but she wants staff and faculty to know when they’re seeing a troubled student and what to do about it. There are many signs — some subtle, others more apparent — to look for when interacting with students. She wants staff and faculty to call her and voice their concerns so she can begin the process of helping the individual.
Foster also makes herself known around campus. She takes frequent walks around the area so students get to know her and begin the process of feeling comfortable with her.
She’s also making it a point to attend at least one sporting event for all the men’s and women’s sports on campus.
“And there’s a lot of them,” she added.
Foster believes that getting to know the people at FRC and how the campus functions are the first step in getting settled. Once that’s done, she will take steps to get to know the community, to find niches for her particular talents and interests. Perhaps she’ll let locals hear the voice she trained to use.