Hardin-Simmons adds personal mental health training to curriculum

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Hardin-Simmons University (HSU) is making personal mental health a priority in their curriculum.

Hardin-Simmons’ Physical Assistant program added the mental health training just two years ago, and Program Director Jennifer Eames says she has seen it pay dividends already.

“Imagine if everyday you have to give people the worst possible news,” Eames said. “Everyday you have to deal with that and go back the next day.”

Some nurses in the Big Country are saying the high stress environment created by the pandemic is making it hard to show up for work, as mental illness and burnout precludes them.

That is why she has implemented the training for her students, like Travis Berry and Meredith McCune.

“It’s almost like you have to turn off the humanness,” Berry said.

Both Berry and McCune have seen and experienced the struggles brought on by the pandemic firsthand when they have done walk through clinicals around town.

With the new curriculum and their experience, they are beginning to spot areas in their own lives where they have struggled with burnout and mental illness.

“By extension,” Berry said. “[We] are able to recognize it in your friends, in your classmates and in yourself.”

McCune recalled struggling with her mental health in college, and said she is using her experiences to help her peers through their current battles.

Both Berry and McCune said they have learned more ways to cope with the high stress and anxieties of the medical field while being at HSU.

For Berry, he said spending time playing with his 2-year-old son and fishing are a few ways he can escape the stresses of the job.

McCune said her escape was going for a run during the middle of the pandemic, but now travels to Lubbock and Dallas-Fort Worth to visit her family and friends.

Jennifer Eames said that this is just the beginning of their curriculum, and that “it’s not an option, it’s a necessity.”

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