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U Of M Hosts Circus-Themed Mental Health Fair

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For many, recalling college years may bring back fond memories.

But if you think hard enough, you may recall some dark days as well.

On Tuesday, the University of Minnesota hosted a special event to help with those dark days called Cirque De-Stress.

It looked a lot like a circus with jugglers, clowns, aerialists and high-wire walkers.

But it was actually a mental health fair designed to showcase the many on-campus resources to help students deal with stress and anxiety.

Mental health professionals say some of the stigma attached to getting help for depression or anxiety has been removed in recent years.

People are more willing to acknowledge they need help and more willing to go and get it.

The 'U' has plenty of resources available to students, but they aren't very useful if people don't know how take advantage of them.

Dr. Gary Christenson is not just the ringmaster at Cirque De-Stress.

He's also the chief medical officer at the university's Boynton Health Service and delighted to see students taking in all their options.

"Well it's not just a big party. There are a lot, a lot of challenges students have. Obviously the studies themselves, but there are a lot of transitions that occur at this age. You leave peers at home and you get here and friendships, you need to make them," Dr. Christenson said.

Students can get help with handling their money, managing their time effectively and relationship counseling.

"Once people are here we can use the metaphors of circus, which is balancing; balancing one's life, juggling; juggling responsibilities, spinning; not letting your life spin out of control, to emphasize some of the resources that are available for mental health," he said.

Therapy animals demonstrated what nice companions they can be.

Once a week, dogs and pet rabbits visit the Boynton Health Service clinics on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campus.

A nice comfort for someone missing a pet at home.

Student Gavin Portman is new to the 'U.' He's a freshman from Missouri.

"You really have to try to be social here, if you want to be social. There's a lot more opportunities to be alone than I thought. I enjoy it. I like being alone. But, if you want to be social you really have to go out there and try," Gavin said. "This is great, this is wonderful. This is a really cool way to show how to de-stress here."

The university's mental health services also include help for people who are struggling with alcohol or drugs, as well as counseling for eating disorders and grief.

Plus, places where you can take yoga classes or get a massage to help de-stress.

And if there is a crisis, there is a number that students can call and talk with a therapist over the phone.

Students can also arrange an urgent face-to-face consultation.

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