Counselor gives students “a safe place to talk”

When Jackson State Community College students struggle with anxiety, anger, depression, or other mental health issues, they have someone ready to help them — Student Counselor, Jessica Barron.

“I offer students a safe place to talk,” Barron said. “I don’t judge; it’s just a time to talk candidly about academic and personal life stressors.” Besides listening, she offers resources and coping skills to help students appropriately manage their feelings.

Jackson State contracts with Pathways Behavioral Health Services to provide free, confidential mental health services for students. Barron, who has been the counselor at Jackson State for a year, is seeing more students this semester, partly because word is spreading about her services and also because of COVID-19.

“Everything is different now,” she said. With most classes only online, students are staying in one place, they don’t have the personal interaction they’re used to.

Online learning also can be particularly hard on students who are not self-starters, she said.

“Without the professor keeping them on track, they lose focus and motivation. They don’t have the accountability and encouragement of face-to-face interaction with their teacher.”

“Jackson State knows the stress people are feeling with COVID, combined with the transition from in-person to online college classes has been exceptionally hard for many,” said Linda Nickell, JSCC dean of students. “The college works to provide as much support for students as possible, and free counseling is an important tool to help with their success.”

Barron is available to students from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. She’ll see them through video chat or talk to them by phone. “It depends on their preference,” she said.

She also offers Green Jay Nation weekly “Chirp and Chatter” Zoom meetings at 2 p.m. each Wednesday and Thursday. It’s an open forum that any student can join, she said. “It’s an outlet to process their thoughts and feelings in a supportive environment.”

Barron, who graduated from North Side High School, attended Jackson State and credits the college with helping her find her calling in social work.

She went on to graduate from Union University with a bachelor’s degree in social work and earned her master’s degree in social work from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.

Barron has experience with clients battling depression, anxiety, and other mental health diagnoses. She specializes in trauma therapy and is trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues related to trauma.

Her services at Jackson State are free, and students can reach her at scounselor@jscc.edu or at 731-424-3520, ext. 50260.

Barron encourages students to contact her if they need help. “A lot of people right now … just need someone to listen. If you need to talk, I’m available.”