Support Groups to Help Students Through Rough Patches

Mercer students now have three different groups on campus that offer support when they need it. According to MCCC student advocate Cynthia Matyas, the groups are designed to give students a place to turn when personal issues may be affecting their ability to get the job done at school. "Lots of our students have issues that affect retention. If we make support services easily accessible, we can help them through the tough times."

Matyas explains that the groups function as a form of peer counseling, where students can talk in a communal setting on topics including relationships and family stresses. The first group, "Chill and Chat" was launched last year as an experiment and proved to hit on a real need. "We had students come and go, but there were seven who were regulars. They wanted to see it start up again," she said.

It's a benefit for faculty too, Matyas notes. "It's another resource faculty can offer to students to relieve some of their stress."

In addition to "Chill and Chat," the college will start a "Bereavement Support Group," led by adjunct instructor Ralph Popp, who has extensive experience as a volunteer at Mercer County Hospice. As an alternative to joining the group or as a precursor, Popp will see students individually by appointment," Matyas said.

The third group is a "Single Parent Support Group." Matyas says students are juggling so much. "Single parents who work and attend school are many times living in 'overload.' By developing a supportive network we hope to help insulate the demands of their many roles."

With this kind of support, Matyas believes Mercer will improve retention of students most at risk for dropping out of school. "Students form personal bonds that keep them on campus," she said.

The schedule for the support groups is:

"Chill and Chat:" Every Tuesday, beginning Oct. 10 in ET 137, 12:15 - 1:00; facilitator: Cindy Matyas, M.Ed.
General support group dealing with relationship and stress issues but will address all areas of student life.

"Single Parents:" Every Wednesday, beginning Oct. 11 in ET 137, 12:15 - 1:00; facilitator: Cindy Matyas, M.Ed.
Addresses the concerns of single parents including practical suggestions for parenting difficulties, time management and balancing various roles.

"Living With Loss:" Every Monday, beginning Oct. 9 in ET 137, 12 to 1 p.m.; facilitator: Ralph Popp, M.S. counselor, Mercer County Hospice. This group is open to anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one who is willing to receive and give support.

A student workshop will be offered on Tuesday, Oct. 17, CM 110, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and on Wednesday, Oct. 18, CM 107, from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Entitled "In Our Own Voice," this workshop is presented by NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). Among the topics to be addressed: mental illness, including anxiety and depression in the college-age population, treatment, and where to find local help. The presentation includes a live discussion and videotaped segments.

For questions or more info, contact Cindy Matyas (ET109) at ext. 3596 or email

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