Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Logan Close, Centre Helps Intern, Spring 2018

What is S.A.D.?

Seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. is a type of depression that is related to the change in the seasons. It typically occurs in the fall or winter months when the weather gets dreary and cold (those tough days when the sun goes down by 5:00pm, so it feels like it’s already midnight when really you haven’t even eaten dinner) and there is simply a lack of sunlight.

S.A.D. can lead to prolonged sadness or feeling down and can cause a person to have trouble getting through previously normal everyday activities. Even simple tasks that are normally completed without a second thought may feel impossible to start, let alone complete.

Some of the symptoms associated with S.A.D. can include:

1.       Changes in appetite or diet (rapid weight loss or gain);
2.       Feeling drained or low in energy and motivation;
3.       Changes in the way one feels such as depressed mood, low self-esteem, anger outbursts, irritability, hopelessness;
4.       Extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleeping or exercise patterns, decrease in pleasurable activities, reduced sex driv

Tips for preventing symptoms of S.A.D.

1.       Exercise regularly to Increases serotonin, endorphins, and other “feel good” chemicals in the brain

o   Aim for 30-60 minutes every day
o   Can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to get dinner instead of driving, or asking a friend to walk around the block with you

2.       SUNSHINE; Light helps the body produce serotonin (hormone that affects mood) and reduces the production of melatonin (hormone that makes you sleepy).

o   Even if it’s cold outside, just a few minutes of sunshine can go a long way!
o   Open the blinds even when you think you’d rather watch television in the dark. Read a book in the daylight instead of watching Netflix with the blinds closed

3.       Eat healthy foods; Certain foods can boost serotonin levels which can increase your overall feeling of happiness and fight off those feelings of wanting to hit the couch right after eating!

o   Choosing certain foods over others can help fight off the symptoms and give you more energy to do the things. Think about how you feel after eating a healthy omelet vs. how you feel after eating a piece of chocolate cake (or may 3)... I know one of those options makes me need a nap just thinking about!
o   Oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and bananas and foods rich in Omega-3 such as fresh fish, walnuts, egg yolks, or sprinkle some flax/chia seeds on your yogurt, smoothie or salad for an extra boost!

With the combination of cold weather and limited sunlight, it’s easy to see why the ‘winter blues’ are so common. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t motivate yourself to do your typically enjoyable activities, please speak to someone. It is important to take care of yourself. Relax, take time for yourself, and remember that these dark, dreary days do not last forever.

Need someone to talk to?  Centre Helps counselors are available 24 hours per day.  Call 814-237-5855.



Tips to Cope with Anxiety

By Carla Capone, Centre Helps Hotline Volunteer

When your anxiety goes away and you have anxiety about not having anxiety.

When your anxiety goes away and you have anxiety about not having anxiety.

Anxiety is something that everyone in the world will experience at some time or another. It is a natural, biological trait in order to alert our bodies of dangerous situations. It is an inherently protective and inbred trait that helps us to survive and react in times of danger. Anxiety, a lot of times, can be also be a positive thing. For example, if we have a difficult test coming up, anxiety about doing well can motivate us to study harder. However, for many of us, this psychological and physical response will be present when there is no real danger, stressor, or impending problem. This can often times become problematic and cause issues with focusing, socializing, and over all functioning. It can also be extremely scary.

What many people are not aware of, is that physical discomfort is often times a psychogenic effect of underlying anxiety. What that means is that physical symptoms such as physical pains, dizziness, sweating, and rapid heartbeat are actually being cause by anxiety, and not by something physical like a cold, tiredness, or some other illness. In even more intense situations, the thought that these physical concerns are being caused by some greater illness—like cancer or a virus—can exacerbate the anxiety and make matters worse.

Personally, I experience anxiety in a very physical way. Rather than feeling on edge or worrying about various things, I can often feel physically sick because of anxiety. Many times, I am not even aware of what is causing the anxiety. Symptoms like lack of focus, dizziness, and nausea can be present even in the absence of a trigger such as a hard exam, fight with a friend, or applying for jobs. Fortunately, through Centre Helps training, my psychology classes, and therapy, I have learned some coping techniques that help to ground and relax me, bring me back to the present moment, and ultimately reduce anxiety.

Here are some techniques that work well for me:

1. Being mindful.

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what you are doing and using your senses to simply observe. For example, if you are eating, you may want to ask yourself: What am I eating? How does it taste? Is it hot? Cold? What does the food feel like in my mouth? What am I using to eat? A fork? What color is the fork? How does the fork feel in my hand? I have found that just observing these small things can help to focus my mind in the present, rather than on worrisome thoughts.

2. Touching something soft.

I personally love stuffed animals and think their cuteness and softness is extremely relaxing. Whenever I am feeling anxious, I give them a hug or squeeze them. They are comforting and familiar to me. If stuffed animals aren’t your thing, you can try rubbing your hands on your pants, adjusting your clothes, feeling your hair between your fingers, or scrunching your toes up in your shoes. Noticing these sensations can help relax a wandering mind.

3. Watching a funny video.

Watching something that makes me laugh helps to release tension and negative thoughts from my body. It is also a positive distractor from harmful thoughts and will put a smile on my face. I personally love to watch Seinfeld clips.

4. Counting.

When I feel my anxiety increasing, counting things in the room can be calming and grounding. This could be counting fingers, posters on a wall, books on a shelf, people in the room, keys on your laptop, or panels on the ceiling. This will distract your mind from other, more negative thoughts.

5. Singing a familiar song.

Reciting the lyrics (in my head or out loud) to a song I know all the words to is one of my favorite things to assuage anxiety. By focusing my mind on the words and rhythm, I am taking attention away from hurtful thoughts and feelings. My favorite anxiety song is Country Roads, Take Me Home.

6. Chatting with a friend.

Sometimes I just need some outside validation that everything is going to be okay. Texting a friend just to say hi can really help me to feel safer.

7. Drinking ginger tea.

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory which can release tension from our body that may manifest as headaches or an upset stomach. Ginger is also a treatment for vertigo and motion sickness, which symptoms of anxiety can sometimes feel similar to. Ginger tea can be made from ginger pieces at a coffee shop or by peeling raw ginger from the super market and steeping it in boiling water. I prefer it with honey :)

The most important thing to remember about anxiety, no matter how scary and unpleasant, is that it is not going to hurt you or kill you. It is important when experiencing anxiety to think to yourself, “This is an uncomfortable feeling, but it will pass and I am okay.”



Support for Parents of Addicted Children

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This month, PA Governor Tom Wolf declared the opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency.  The epidemic that has spread across the country is particularly devastating to Pennsylvania as we have one of the highest overdose rates in the county. 

Addiction does not discriminate.  It can affect people from all walks of life.  Discovering that your own child is struggling with addiction can be shocking, devastating, and confusing.

PACCT (Parents of Addicted Children Coming Together) is a program offered by Centre Helps that provides education and emotional support to parents who are struggling with the substance abuse of their child.

Our six-week course incorporates group discussion and opportunities for participants to interact, with an emphasis on self-care and personal well-being. Topics include: substance abuse, addiction, recovery, and relapse; impacts on the family; healthy behaviors and coping skills; how to reduce enabling behaviors; how to encourage sobriety in the home; and treatment options and local resource information.

PACCT offers a supportive environment in sessions guided by professional therapists and trained facilitators; group members help each other problem solve and find ways to potentially intervene and break the cycle of addiction.

Centre Helps has long provided emotional support and information regarding substance abuse to people living with the problem as well as the families affected by it. Recognizing the need in our community for a program that specifically addresses the challenges faced by parents, we welcome your inquiries and registration (all participants must register) by calling 814-235-7672.

Suicide is Preventable

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By: Madi Nitzky

There have been so many celebrity deaths by suicide in the past year. It is devastating. Reading articles about any celebrity that died by suicde, it really makes me think about how each person could have been helped.

Working at an emotional support hotline, and teaching others how to be empathetic, there are a few things I want say about people who are suicidal, attempt suicide, and/or die by suicide.

  1. Suicide is not selfish. People who are suicidal feel like a burden. They feel they don't contribute to society in a productive way. They feel like is better without them in it and they are doing others a FAVOR by no longer being here.

  2. If someone has attempted suicide before they are at a MUCH higher risk the second time. It is never to be taken lightly.

  3. Death by suicide is commonly a surprise. A lot of people don't see it coming. It isn't always easy to tell the difference between Suicide and depression. And it isn't always easy to tell if someone is suicidal. But if someone was depressed and now seems happy, it should be a red flag. If someone struggles with depression, and then seems to have a sudden onset of happiness, it is most likely because they have PLANNED THEIR ATTEMPT. They now feel a sense of hope and happiness, because they know there is an end to their pain.

  4. If you are confused or unsure whether your friend, loved one, co-worker,etc. is suicidal, ASK THEM. Asking questions related to suicide does not put the idea in the person's head. First ask, "do you feel hopeless/helpless?" (Most suicidal people will say yes). Then say the words "are you feeling suicidal?" Do not say, "do you want to hurt yourself?" That is much different. Asking this question could be all the person needs to make them feel alive again. Letting them know you're there for them no matter what, connecting with them, that's what they need.

Reach out to anyone in your life you are concerned about, no matter how close you are with them, or how big or small these concerns might be. If they are having trouble expressing how they feel, encourage them to call Centre Helps. Our Centre Helps volunteer counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide nonjudgemental emotional support to those in need.

Suicide is preventable if we work together.

Centre Helps Hotline Number: (814) 237-5855 (24/7)

Now Accepting Applications for our Spring Hotline Training class!

Spring, 2017 Training Class

Spring, 2017 Training Class

By: Madi Nitzky

Do you enjoy helping people?
Interested in gaining counseling experience?
Want to give back to the community?

Centre Helps is the place for you! Here at Centre Helps, we hope to provide opportunities to individuals who are interested in expanding their experiences working in a nonprofit setting, learning counseling and listening skills, and helping others. While our training class schedule aligns with Penn State semesters, this volunteer opportunity is NOT limited to students.  In fact, we encourage local community members to take advantage of this valuable volunteer opportunity. 

Centre Helps is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization located right here in Downtown State College. We have existed since 1971, offering non bias information, referrals, and emotional support to individuals experiencing a variety concerns. Centre Helps offers a 24-hour hotline and supports walk-in clients during business hours.

Our dedicated and well trained volunteers are the reason that we are able to serve thousands of individuals in need every year!

To become a hotline counselor, volunteers train for 1 semester (11 weeks total) two nights/per week from 6-10pm. Training topics include mental health, mental illness, counseling skills, and information and referral for basic needs. Training is both hands-on and individualized, and includes a variety of readings, speakers, trainings, and role plays.
Once training is complete, volunteers typically work 4 hours on the hotline per week and around 1-3 overnights per month. (Don’t worry, you can sleep!). This is a good way to get one-on-one experience with clients and use learned skills to help them through a wide array of situations. The training and skills we provide volunteers are carried with them throughout the rest of their lives.
  Benefits of Volunteering at Centre Helps:
Learn Skills!
After the 11 weeks of training you’ll walk away with knowledge related to a variety of mental health topics (from anxiety and depression to suicide and self-mutilation), and gain and understanding of the skills needed to handle these topics.

“Volunteering at Centre Helps was the best decision for my career…I will be forever indebted for all the skills and experience this agency has given me.”

Meet other Like-Minded Individuals! Centre Helps is not only an agency, but a community of empathetic, motivated people!

“I greatly appreciated being surrounded by a friendly family of cohesive staff, collectively exercising our opportunity to provide help to others.”

Gain Life Experience! Our volunteers often use the training they received at Centre Helps when applying for jobs, graduate school, or propelling their careers.

“I have consistently relied upon the skills taught to me during my time at Centre Helps…knowing how to be an active listener…is invaluable.”

Give Back to the Community! Play a role in helping others and making a difference in a person’s life who needs it!

“Centre Helps affords me opportunities to serve others, utilize life experience, and mingle with younger people. I like to feel useful.”

How to Apply: Please visit our website:
Applications for the Spring 2018 Training class are due Monday, January 22 and the training begins the week of February 5.

Centre Helps Welcomes New Director

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Centre Helps is pleased to announce the appointment of Leanne Lenz as Executive Director, commencing January 1, 2018. Leanne completed the Centre Helps Hotline Training Program as a college junior in the fall of 2002.  While filling her duties as Hotline Volunteer, her commitment to the mission of Centre Helps grew stronger.  She took on the roles of Hotline Trainer, Youthful Offenders Program Instructor, and the full-time position of Program Coordinator.  

Since her departure from Centre Helps in 2010, Leanne has gained valuable experience through a direct service position in Penn State's Health Promotion and Wellness department and has gained nonprofit leadership experience through her work at Pennsylvania Certified Organic.  Leanne is committed to the mission of Centre Helps and is eager to give back to the community and to be part of the organization that began her career in nonprofit leadership.

Leanne received her Master's Degree in Human Resources and her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, both from Penn State University.  She resides in State College with her husband and two daughters.

Former Executive Director, Bonnie Tatterson, retired at the end of last year. Joining the agency in 2010, Bonnie increased the profile of Centre Helps in the Centre County community, led the agency through an office move, initiated new programming, and guided a rebranding campaign and an organizational name change.  Bonnie’s leadership provided Leanne with a great platform to move Centre Helps forward.

Thank you to Bonnie Tatterson for her direction and hard work and welcome to Leanne Lenz as the Centre Helps Executive Director.

The Power of Listening

by Geoff Merz, Centre Helps Hotline Volunteer


The skills that I have learned working at the Centre Helps crisis hotline have been priceless. I have grown in empathy, respect, and commitment. Perhaps most importantly of all, I have learned how to listen; how to truly hear what someone is saying by extending past the words and feeling the deeper emotions in their voice.

I have come to see that listening is not just a spectator sport. It is not being quiet and letting the other person talk. Listening is an active process that involves giving your full attention and focus to another human being. Listening may be one of the most dignifying things that we can do as it demonstrates to the other person that they are worthy of respect. While one can argue that we should not gain our sense of worth from others, that does not mean that we should stop giving others the time of day to truly listen.

Listening is a skill. With the right practice, you become better and better. However, practice does not make perfect. Instead, and remember this, perfect practice makes perfect. By honing in on our technique, we can tremendously grow in our ability to listen. Making eye contact, having a similar body language, minimizing distractions, and not thinking about how to respond are all useful tools to add to your listening repertoire.

By learning how to listen, I have witnessed, on the hotline, the fragility and ugliness of humanity through systemic homelessness and utter loneliness, while at the same time gaining a look into the courage, strength, and beauty of our species, through the resilience people have to fight suicidal ideation and altruism from friends and family to care so deeply about those who are struggling.

People often ask how I deal with such intense calls. What do you do when someone is ready to end his life? What do you say that convinces him to stop? The answer to this question is simple. I listen. I give the person the space to express his feelings without judgment or condescension. By listening, I show to the other person that they are not crazy and that another human being understands them. The magic in these moments is immeasurable. 

So, next time you are having a conversation, think about if you are truly listening or just going through the motions. Think about the last time someone gave you their full attention. Really, revisit that moment. Now, think about how in every conversation you have the opportunity to make the other person feel the way you felt. Ok, now get out there and listen.

2017 was a big year for Community Help Centre — now we are: CENTRE HELPS

Centre Helps plays a vital role in providing emotional support and in educating and guiding individuals to appropriate programs and services. The agency meets a variety of needs for those in personal crisis, needing shelter or health care, facing under-and unemployment, and so on. Centre Helps is the key community resource that enables people with diverse concerns to identify and access services aimed at reaching financial and personal stability. Many callers report having no other options for support.

It is well established that lower cost, early prevention efforts are central to deterring escalation of a problem and avoiding higher cost intervention services (i.e., parenting skills coaching and supervision rather than foster care). The Hotline and Emergency Services staff are empathetic, well-trained volunteers who provide assistance and information to callers (some without the skills to articulate their needs and locate help). Addressing a problem in the early stages may prevent it from becoming more serious and unmanageable.

About a third of our budget comes from the Centre County United Way, a third from the Youthful Offender Program, and a third from Centre County Government for the 24-hour Hotline. We could not do what we do without necessary support from CCUW, Centre County Government, Centre Foundation, area churches, and other generous supporters. We operate on a very tight margin, however. Our paid staff consists of just four full-time positions— down from six a few years ago. We really need another full-time Basic Needs Case Manager and a Marketing/Development Manager. We wouldn’t make it without our wonderful volunteers. They provide an incredible cost savings to the organization.” (See Volunteer Training section).

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