University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas announced in a campus-wide email Wednesday afternoon that the university has hired more full-time clinical positions, will perform an assessment of mental health at UConn and hopes to change the culture surrounding mental health on campus.
Beginning Feb. 17, 12,000 UConn students will receive a Healthy Minds Study, according to Katsouleas, administered by the university to assess students’ attitudes, behaviors and awareness of mental health issues on campus.
UConn Student Health and Wellness partnered with the JED Foundation in the fall. The JED Foundation helps universities create prevention and intervention strategies and advises on mental health policies, programs and services, according to its website.
“The findings from the study will enable UConn and the JED Foundation to create a strategic plan that will be implemented over the next three years,” Katsouleas said. “UConn will agree to adopt a public health approach to promoting emotional well-being, preventing suicide and understanding the impact of substance use on student health and well-being.”
In response to the demands to increase mental health services, UConn has hired six additional full-time clinical positions, according to Katsouleas, as well as launched a case management model for each of the regional campuses.
“It is important to note that the student mental health crisis is not a challenge that colleges and universities can simply hire our way out of,” Katsouleas said. “Equally important is the culture we must create around mental health and well-being on our campuses.”
Kanu Caplash, the USG Mental Health and Wellness Subcomittee co-chair, said the UConn Mental Health Coalition has started many initiatives and compiled a list of questions for the administration to try and spark change across campus, and as a result has been in contact with Student Health and Wellness in agreement to work with the coalition.
“Students want long-term help, an accessible education system, better advertising and more resources,” Caplash said. “They want it so when they’re in trouble and they need help, they have access to adequate help.”
Initiatives of the UConn Mental Health Coalition include revamping education, mandatory mental health education, K-12 mental health resources, local mental health clinics shuttles and more. According to Caplash, some of the initiatives still need leaders, and anyone can get involved with any of them.
The UConn Mental Health Coalition’s list of questions to the university are broken into four parts: accessibility, availability, acceptability and quality. The coalition brings up questions regarding diversity in mental health services, access to therapists on campus, university collaborations with cultural centers and Residential Life and overall facilities surrounding student health and wellness.
Katsouleas also announced the initiation of the President’s Task Force on Student Mental Health and Well-being, and members of the force will be named in the coming days.
Derek Pan, the former Student Services Committee chairperson for the Undergraduate Student Government, said it took over a year to bring the JED Campus Initiative to UConn.
“After spearheading UConn’s first campus-wide Mental Illness Awareness week, [Dennis Mema, the former USG Mental Health & Wellness Subcommittee Chairperson] and I were contacted by Dr. Nance Roy, the Chief Clinical Officer of the JED Foundation, to consider bringing the JED Campus Initiative to UConn,” Pan said.
After working with administration in UConn Counseling and Mental Health and Student Health and Wellness, as well as the Dean of Students and the then-USG President, Pan and Memas were able to iron out the logistics of the JED program in December 2018.
“Total financial cost was $21,000,” Pan said. “Because this was one of the first student-led efforts to establish JED Campus at a university, a generous $7,000 grant was provided. The remaining cost was split evenly between USG and Student Health & Wellness.”
Pan explained the $21,000 for the four-year partnership between the university and the JED Foundation includes data collection and campus assessments and reports, which help plan improvements. There is also a final assessment in the fourth year of the partnership that qualifies the impact made surrounding mental health on campus.
Katsouleas said the demand for mental health services has grown across the college-age population, and different students have different needs based on their circumstances and history.
“UConn recognizes that many of our students face significant mental health and wellness challenges,” Katsouleas said. “We are committed to doing all we can to support you.”