Units under review, gaps in state funding, furlough days, terminal contracts. No doubt many UI employees are feeling stressed. They should be aware of a valuable resource that can help them deal with the anxiety they’re feeling.
Faculty/Staff Assistance Program
A free, confidential counseling service available to UI employees and their families.
Employees can use their first appoint-ment as an approved event during work hours.
The center, located at 1011 W. University Ave., Urbana, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For an appointment:
24-hour crisis line:
The program will offer a free seminar:
“Living an Intentional Life” on April 8.
That resource is the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program, which offers free, confidential counseling for UI employees and their family members who are feeling more than a little overwhelmed.
“People are coming to see us with significant amounts of anxiety,” said Karie Wolfson, interim director of the program.
Although the center always has seen employees who are dealing with workplace stress, the counselors are seeing different forms of those issues than in the past few years, she said.
“It’s not because they’re not getting along with a boss or co-worker, but more in terms of what the future holds,” Wolfson said. “There also are those who have received a T-contract or who are even voluntarily separating. We want those individuals to move through with a sense of resilience. We’re really supporting them through their own job-loss process.”
Last year, the program served about 5 percent of the employee population and scheduled about 2,000 appointments.
This year, that number is up and is likely to keep increasing.
“I kind of have the sense that until April, when we really know a little more about the decisions that are going to be made, that number is going to continue to increase,” Wolfson said.
As the UI works its way through the financial crisis, employees are trying to make sense of all the information about it.
“There’s a point where having information is very helpful – as long as that information is perceived as a challenge to overcome and trusting that the resources are there to meet that challenge,” Wolfson said.
“When individuals hit ‘overwhelm,’ they’re no longer really staying regulated, centered, grounded. They’ve (gone into) survival mode,” Wolfson said. “They activate a fight/flight response. We work with people to help manage that anxiety; (we ask them to) take a break from reading everything there is out there about furloughs and the budget and balance that with what brings them joy.”
Counselors remind stressed employees of what they are in control of.
“In a nutshell, it’s rather difficult – the brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined,” she said.
People who are worried take their problems a bit further by agonizing over losing their homes or other things that they don’t necessarily know will happen, she said.
“We try to help people stay focused on the real as opposed to what hasn’t happened yet.”
The FSAP counselors help employees by arming them with strategies or resources to help them resolve problems they’re facing. If long-term help is needed, they issue referrals to other professionals who can help.
“Underneath most work-related issues there’s a personal problem,” she said. “We try to help them work through that and get back on course.”
All sessions are confidential. Personal information would only be shared if the law requires it. Information never becomes a part of personnel files.
The counselors also work with groups of employees in units for conflict resolution, grief therapy and to help create a healthy work-life balance.
FSAP also has worked with managers for what Wolfson calls survivor guilt – the anxiety managers and supervisors feel after they have to let someone go.
Wolfson encourages employees to call the center if they feel like they could use someone to talk to.
“Everyone really is ambivalent about coming here,” Wolfson said. “They want to feel better, but really don’t want to talk about personal, painful kinds of things,” she said.
“Therapy is a process of self-discovery,” she said. “Most people have a sense of growth. … Until you admit you have (a problem), you can’t begin to take the steps toward healing.
“We believe with the right supports in place everyone will move toward health and well being. It is our job to help identify, provide and coordinate those supports for each person we see.” When people come here, they feel better, she said.