Interview with Annie Cressey, MEd

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On a dreary day in the late autumn grayness of Vermont, I sat down with Anne Cressey, a
health educator and outreach expert for UVM’s Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHWB). The
CHWB, with its many branches and specializations, is UVM’s primary prevention-oriented
resource for all health-related issues, ranging from simple nutrition to medical care. Annie is also
the primary advisor for Active Minds, a student-run organization dedicated to educating adults of
all ages on mental health and associated issues. According to Annie, “Active Minds is dedicated
to reducing the stigma on mental health,” and as part of this broad goal, Annie believes that as a
community and as a nation, we need to breakdown the stereotypes that swirl around veterans and
complex mental health issues such as Posttraumatic stress disorder.

In order to begin the dissolution of these harmful stereotypes and stigmas, Annie highlights
the importance of knowing that there are resources available for all members of the UVM
community, including veterans. During our brief interview, Annie emphasized that, all
“questions are valid,” so anyone seeking counseling or just a listening ear should feel no doubt or
anxiety about reaching out to the CHWB.

For veterans, the fear of being labeled “crazy” for seeking help through counseling or therapy
sessions can be unbearably acute. For this reason, Annie Cressey believes that UVM (as well as
other institutions) should offer a class about the status of returning veterans. This class could be
made available to veterans and the general public. Along with suicide awareness training, this
class would go far in helping to clarify to the general public some of the obstacles that returning
veterans face on college campuses and in the workplace.

Annie applauds a consistent approach to care which can often be as simple as picking up the
phone. “You don’t have to be in a downright crisis,” but “don’t underestimate the power of
experience, either.” For many of us, counseling seems like a last resort coming well after just
toughing it out or finding ways for intellectual distraction or physical release through exercise.
Annie Cressey, Active Minds, and CHWB all agree that this last resort thinking diminishes the
effectiveness of counseling.

Since “symptoms arise in multiple ways,” the best type of care would provide those seeking
relief “with multiple options.” This, for Annie, means that a diverse approach to mental and
physical issues should be adopted and implemented, and, as a member of the UVM health
services community, Annie Cressey is working hard to make that a reality. Her idea of
“wraparound care” begins with the development of good coping mechanisms; for, “maintenance
is a job in itself.” Truer words have never been spoken.

If you would like help or your questions answered in regards to issues of health, visit uvm.edu/
health, or call Health Education and Outreach at The Davis Center at 802-656-0441. Information
regarding Active Minds can be located at uvm.edu/~actvmind.

Article written by Benjamin Welton

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