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ASU Counseling Services can help with student stress

Anxiety, depression and relationship issues are the 3 biggest student concerns.
A healthy lifestyle and avoiding negativity can help reduce stress in students.
August 24, 2017

Noisy roommates. Rigorous coursework. Sleep deprivation. Hunger pangs. Burgeoning romances.

Such are the woes of college life, but they can create real, substantial problems for students.

A recent study out of Belgium found doctoral students were at an increased risk for mental-health problems due to the pressures associated with academia. Though the study focused on postgraduate students studying science or humanities subjects, as several news outlets have reported, the findings stand to open up a conversation about the stress levels of all students in higher education.

As we herald in a new academic year, Associate Vice President of ASU Health and Counseling Services Aaron Krasnow wants students to know that experiencing things like anxiety and depression are completely normal, and that there are resources available right on campus.

“If you want to talk to us for any reason at any time, we’re here to talk to you,” he said.

Krasnow shared what to look out for, ways to cope and where you or a friend can get help if you need it.

Aaron Krasnow

Question: What are some of the biggest stressors or most common concerns of students at the beginning of a new school year?

Answer: Anytime anybody is starting anything new, what happens is that people go through a period of adjustment. It’s different for different people. One of the hallmarks of that adjustment period can be an increased stress level. Depending on a person’s ability to cope with stress, it may lead to new experiences, maybe feelings of being anxious or lonely, or it may exacerbate things that are underlying. Or maybe someone has had experiences with anxiety or depression in the past and under stress, they can resurface. But overall students adjust quite well.

That said, some of the most common concerns I hear from students are feelings of anxiety, followed by feelings of depression, followed by relationship concerns. There’s quite a bit of overlap among those concerns, but those are the top three. And they hold pretty consistent throughout school year.

Q: Are there things students can do to help cope with those stressors?

A: Adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the most important thing; eating well, being active, being engaged with supportive people in your life, avoiding negative influences on your well-being, avoiding or minimizing use of alcohol and drugs, surrounding yourself with positive people. ... If there are difficult people in your life, maybe learning how to deal with them or avoid them.

It’s challenging sometimes for college students because they’re in a new environment, so they may have to invent or discover anew [ways of coping with stress] once they get to college. While they may have had those skills in high school, they may have to re-learn things like determining those people who are close to them that they can trust, or how to balance new experiences and new responsibilities.

Q: When should someone seek professional help?

A: The first thing I’d say is a person should seek out help whenever they want to. If you want to talk to us for any reason at any time, we’re here to talk to you.

But how do you know when it’s a good idea? There are a couple indicators that might nudge someone in that direction: whenever what they’re dealing with is interfering with living their life, or when it has reached an intensity that they feel like they can’t handle. So those two things: interference and intensity.

Q: Why might someone avoid seeking help?

A: Unfortunately, stigma still exists about reaching out for help, in some communities more than others. But that stigma has a lot to do with confidence. People may be willing to do things that might be embarrassing if they think it will work out for them. We spend lot of time to try and make sure people are very confident in the help that’s available all around them at ASU. We want to remind people that what they’re going through is normal, and to have confidence that seeking help will work.

Q: What services are available to students at ASU, and what can they expect if/when they do meet with a counselor?

A: Students can check out our website for a list of specific services.

As far as what to expect, they can expect to be treated well. They can expect to be listened to. They will be seen that same day, within a short period of time. We don’t keep them waiting. They’ll get the opportunity to talk to a counselor about what’s going on. Their visit can be short or long depending on what they’re coming in for. Most of the time it’s a short talk; then we make a plan for how to deal with it and set up a follow-up visit. If they’re in a crisis, it can be a longer visit — as long as it takes to take care of what’s wrong. We don’t have a session time limit. It’s whatever is needed in that moment.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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Ask Rolf Halden about antimicrobials during Aug. 29 Facebook Live chat.
FDA to ban harmful antimicrobials, thanks to ASU scientist's research.
August 25, 2017

Upcoming ban on personal-care products containing prominent antimicrobials a direct result of Rolf Halden's research

Arizona State University scientist Rolf Halden jokes that his real job is to scare the public, but in the course of his work he has made the public healthier.

Starting at the beginning of September, the Food and Drug Administration will prohibit the sale of personal-care products containing prominent antimicrobials, including triclosan and triclocarban — prized for their antimicrobial properties. The ban is a direct result of Halden’s research, which started in 2002.

“I want to rattle people’s cages to make them aware of what’s happening in our world,” said Halden, director of ASU’s Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering and the lead author of the Florence Statement, a declaration signed by more than 200 scientists and medical professionals that laid out a convincing case against why these two antimicrobials are harmful.

“Oftentimes science is so detailed that the message can easily be lost, so I try to communicate what these things are about and why they’re important. They should be things we care about; otherwise, we shouldn’t be spending tax dollars on them.”

HaldenHalden is also a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and a senior sustainability scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability. has long contended triclosan and triclocarban are often ineffective in safeguarding the public from harmful microbes and, further, pose significant risks to human health and the environment by contaminating air, soil and water.

The FDA’s ruling only applies to consumer hand washes and soaps. The restriction does not extend to building and household products that are outside the purview of the FDA but still contain hazardous and ineffective antimicrobials sold throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Still, the FDA’s ruling is a major victory for consumers.

ASU Now caught up with Halden before his Aug. 29 Q&A, which will be livestreamed on ASU’s Facebook page starting at 11 a.m. Hosted by Knowledge Enterprise Development, the half-hour session will feature Halden discussing his work and answering audience questions. 

Question: You’ve often said it’s your job to scare people. What do you mean by that?

Answer: I want to rattle people’s cages to make them aware of what’s happening in our world. Everything that people encounter on the shelves at the store they believe is safe to use. But if you look at the underpinnings of what products and materials get manufactured into commerce, there are very few safeguards. The thing to remember is that we should never turn off our common sense and we should always ask questions.

For example, if you have ants or pests in your house and you go to the store to buy pesticides to kill them — if you decide to use these chemicals, beware that they could possibly do harm to you as well. When things are very powerful, they can work both ways — for the good and for the bad. So it’s my job is to make people think just a little bit more about their health and safety.

Q: There is an assumption that the FDA will safeguard us from all things that are unsafe. Is that expectation too lofty or naïve?

A: I think overall the FDA is doing a pretty good job. There are also mechanisms that tend to push products and chemicals which are not necessary and which pose risks in certain environments. There are marketing mechanisms that tend to increase the desire to have certain chemicals or products, resulting in mass production. The more you make of a problematic chemical, the bigger the risk that it harms you or that it gets around in your house, your country or around the globe.

We have many examples of chemicals that travel places and do any harm. Keeping an eye on production and making sure they aren’t running out of rudder with respect to volume is important. If something is declared safe but only was deemed to be used by a few, while all of a sudden the chemical is widely produced and used by everyone, it ramps up everything, including the risk. So ultimately it’s the responsibility of the consumer.

A lot of people say they hate chemistry, although chemistry is the science that makes up everything. Chemistry decides on the way you look and live, and is linked to emotions and behavior. It’s a very, very powerful and certainly underappreciated scientific discipline.

Q: How big of a victory is the FDA ruling?

A: Ultimately it’s rewarding for the science community — to see the results of their labor and work that translates into something tangible. This is an example where the work of many people has resulted in a conclusion that can help us protect people better if we can reduce these types of chemicals into our living environment. Ultimately it’s a very rewarding situation, and it doesn’t happen very often. It’s not common that chemicals get removed from products in the United States.

We must also understand these chemicals are not entirely disappearing. The FDA only regulates a certain amount of products under their purview. It’s in a lot of other products: carpets, socks, shoes, and other things that can be impregnated with triclosan and other antibacterials. There is still a need for vigilance on the side of the consumer to know that something can be harmful and avoided unless it’s really needed. It’s only being banned in soaps because it’s all the FDA. can do. There is still a need to translate this ban to other products as well.

Q: How often does the FDA listen to scientists, and how often does it change its mind when confronted with scientific evidence?

A: The FDA is always listening and absorbing science. There is an intrinsic problem with the fact that there’s always knowledge, and that knowledge gained is eventually added on. As a scientist, we tend to think that recent studies are always more thorough and better designed and therefore are more reliable. Industry, on the other hand, tends to go back to studies that are older and oftentimes did not report any adverse effects. It’s often the job of the FDA to weigh in on this and reach a fair judgment that keeps people safe.

For everything we study, there are always studies that show there are potential problems. It’s a delicate process to decide whether or not the integration of these types of chemicals ultimately serves public health or not. The FDA reached the right conclusion in removing these antimicrobial chemicals from the market.

Q: Let’s discuss triclosan and triclocarban and the impacts they have on people and the environment.

A: Triclosan and triclocarban are chemicals that resemble in many ways the chemicals that we mass-produced and then banned in the 1970s. Things like DDTDichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) were produced as the first of the modern synthetic insecticides in the 1940s. It was initially used to combat malaria, typhus and the other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations. It also was effective for insect control in crop and livestock production, institutions, homes and gardens. comes to mind, and it was assumed to be safe at the time. We now know that this chemical is persistent and bio-accumulative. Once it gets stored into our body it stays with us for a long time. These are chemicals you want to avoid.

But we’ve done the opposite. We’ve really ramped up production and gone through millions of pounds. So for us now it is difficult to provide even a control sample of these chemicals because they are everywhere. They are in paints, carpets, sofas, and also get into the lab environment as unwanted contaminants. Nintey-seven percent of women in American have triclosan in their breast milk. It’s a chemistry that didn’t serve us well in the past and it needs to go away. It needs to be replaced with better chemistry, sustainable or greener chemistry that’s more compatible with nature. We should mass-produce products that do not destroy our environment.

Q: The ban will go into effect in September. Does President Donald Trump or any other entity have the power reverse this decision?

A: It would be undesirable to do so. This decision also involves a lawsuit and consent decree. So for that reason, this just isn’t a political move and is difficult to reverse in the United States. What we hope is that through the coverage of this ban other countries and nations will take a closer look at them.

Ultimately, we all live in one big bubble, our planet's atmosphere. When we ban a chemical here in the U.S. and it’s mass-produced in other places around the world, it still comes to us. We banned DDT in the 1970s, and it’s still being produced in other parts of the world. It actually travels atmospherically and comes back to visit and is detectable in everyone.

Q: Going forward, what’s the next problem or challenge you plan on tackling in this domain?

A: Triclosan and triclocarban and other antimicrobials are symptomatic only; we need to leapfrog from an old type of chemistry that has provided services but has come at great environmental cost. We need a new generation of chemicals.

It’s a difficult transition because we have built this pipeline that likes to take in fuel-based, non-recyclable resources. Ultimately, we have to make this transition because we are running out of the feedstocks we have used in the past. There are better alternatives. The challenge is to communicate the risk of existing chemicals and to build political momentum and the will to transition to safer and greener alternatives.

Q: What can consumers do on their end?

A: I would suggest they use common sense. Say if a chemical is advertised as killing a lot of things, it also probably poses risks to human health. If you decide to buy it, then it should probably be stored in a safe place. If you don’t need to have a product in your living space, or if you smell it all the time, it probably means you’re getting exposed.

For example, everybody loves new-car smell. Well, new-car smell is actually the plasticizers that come out of plastics and these chemicals are known to act as endocrine disruptors. So people need to change their mind-set about their sensory perception and what it means. If they can smell something that’s prominent, that should serve as a warning signal.


Top photo: ASU Professor Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at the Biodesign Institute, talks about his fight to get the FDA to ban two antimicrobial agents — triclosan and triclocarban — in one of the chemistry labs on the Tempe campus on Thursday. The ban takes effect in September for the chemicals' use in soaps. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now