Dothan Campus students volunteering at mental health support group

Sharon Neal is among the social work graduate students volunteering to help a mental health support group in Marianna, Fla.

Sharon Neal is among the social work graduate students volunteering to help a mental health support group in Marianna, Fla.

Troy University graduate students are volunteering their time to help those dealing with mental health issues.

Students from the master of social work program at the Dothan Campus are volunteering weekly at the New Day Mental Health Information and Support Group in Marianna, Fla., helping local residents in need of counseling, support and information.

The group, founded by Marianna attorney Lisa Brogdon last fall, meets weekly and features speakers from the mental healthcare community. TROY students then lead smaller group discussions after the presentation.

“The vast majority of our graduate students have participated,” said Dr. Jeff Waller, director of the master of social work program. “Lisa set up this support group because she had observed a need for it and saw there was not a resource to give people with mental health issues and their relatives any kind of support. Our students help facilitate these discussions and connect people to resources after the invited speaker talks about their area of expertise.”

Sharon Neal is one of those students who has volunteered her time and knowledge.

Neal, who retired after 21 years in the Army, finds herself drawn to the group because of the number of veterans who take part.

“It’s meant a great deal,” Neal said. “Yes, I’m a social worker, but what I noticed is there are a lot of veterans that attend the class. That’s my environment. A lot of them are young and they do their service and get out and don’t understand a lot of the (help) medically that they can get. I keep resources with me when it comes to veterans. Certain subjects a lot of the veterans are dealing with — namely PTSD and anxiety — when they were offering those classes, those were the ones I made sure to attend.”

Neal said the trips have the double benefit of helping her fellow veterans and giving her valuable real-world experience in her field.

“As social worker you want to learn all you can, but you also want to make sure you have a grasp of the job you were sent out there to do,” Neal said. “I want to be effective when I’m out there, so this was  a great opportunity for me. We assist with facilitating the group meetings once the speaker puts out their information. We answer questions. We have that speaker there to fill in and answer what we don’t understand.”

The most important part of the group is making sure people understand there is help available for them.

“The number one cause of mortality or illness is depression,” Waller said. “That’s treatable. We can treat depression very effectively. We can treat anxiety disorders very effectively. There’s help available if people know how to get it. Any way we can communicate that is to the greater good.”

For the people who attend the group, the information often makes an immediate difference.

“I think the biggest impact is the information that’s put out, the resources,” Neal said. “A lot of people have issues or disorders and don’t know what resources are out there. The presenters also bring a lot of resources to help that community. They bring those tools with them for people who may not know that those resources are out there.”