UWC-USA mental health counselor Diana Padilla was named the 2019 Provider of the Year by the New Mexico Primary Care Association.
The association represents 19 organizations with more than 160 primary care, dental, school-based and behavioral clinics throughout the state.
Diana, who works afternoons and evenings at UWC-USA, and is on call on weekends, said she enjoys working with international students and the challenges they bring to counseling in the United States.
“I married an international student, so I feel like I saw first-hand what it’s like for someone to come to another country to learn,” Diana said. “They often need a little more support and help.”
The challenges of providing counseling in a multicultural setting are significant, but not insurmountable.
“We’re trained to take cultural differences into account when we work with students,” she said.
Other cultures stigmatize mental health disorders more than the United States, Diana said. She helps students see where they are and wants to listen and encourage them as they figure out how to become healthier.
Getting enough sleep seems to be the biggest issue among students.
“We find that when students are getting enough sleep and taking care of their other basic biological functions like drinking enough water, eating a healthy diet, and exercising a little, the big problems start to feel more like small problems,” Diana said. “But sleep is often at the heart of it all.”
She feels fortunate to work alongside Dan Cressman, UWC-USA’s other counselor. “Dan has been a great mentor, and I’m lucky to work with someone so insightful.”
Students start off the year with presentations on mental health services at UWC-USA, the importance of taking care of basic biological needs, and getting to know the students.
“I love learning about other cultures and getting to know the students,” Diana said. “It’s an exciting and stimulating place to live and learn – it just goes so much better with plenty of sleep.”