Mental Health Awareness: A Role for All
For many of our faculty, staff and students, the end of a semester is a time for celebration. For those graduating, this will mark a major milestone in life. With summer just ahead, we also all look forward to a change of pace from the academic year. But it is also a time for reflection and planning for how we can better serve our community in the years ahead. Like other universities, we need to talk and take action on mental health awareness and support.
As a leading research university, we have an academic and educational responsibility for supporting research on causes, treatments and cures of mental illness from all angles – social, behavioral, molecular and clinical. With our commitment to supporting trans-institutional discovery to address society’s greatest challenges, Vanderbilt is an innovative leader in efforts to understand psychiatric illnesses and discover new approaches for supporting healthy lives; be this through the Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery, Vanderbilt Brain Institute, the Psychology and Psychiatry departments, Medicine Health and Society and other programs. Vanderbilt’s approach to mental health, however, moves beyond the academic and educational to offer robust support for all members of our community who struggle with mental illness.
How many members of our community are silently struggling with mental illness? A new report from the Centers for Disease Control found that suicide rates have steadily increased since 1999, with substantial increases among women and girls (rates remain higher for men). It is the second leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 10 to 24. Young adult years are the typical age of onset of many mental illnesses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression, affected nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States.
Perhaps a colleague or student feels the weight of expectations bearing down on them. Perhaps they are having anxiety related to a social or financial situation, or perhaps they are facing any number of unknown challenges. Have they been guided to resources that will help them? And, if so, do societal barriers or fear of a stigma prevent them from accepting help?
As a community of engaged scholars who believe in the mission of residential living and learning, we have a responsibility to support one another. Living and working together as students, faculty and staff, we form a collegiate family and we should strive to be aware of each other’s needs and be willing to invest effort in outreach. Many of us recently signed the “It’s on Us” pledge in recognition of sexual assault awareness and prevention month. The pledge to make a personal commitment to help keep each other safe not only applies to sexual assault, but also to situations where someone in our Vanderbilt family is in need of mental health resources.
We should consider how to make our campus environment as supportive as possible; considering the range of community needs from education to prevention. I bring your attention to an important student-led initiative called the Vanderbilt [IM]Perfection Project supported by the Women’s Center and the new Center for Student Wellbeing. Their mission is to bring awareness to failure and setbacks as a healthy part of every student’s college experience and life after Vanderbilt. They “believe in a Vanderbilt where students can bravely share their stories of ‘good failures’ as well as their journeys of self-acceptance.” The goal of the initiative is to encourage students to be open and honest about their lives, in recognition that it will, in turn, help someone else do the same. Such efforts, large and small, to increase awareness and facilitate conversations can have profound impacts on individual lives.
Recognizing that experiences with mental illness can differ across racial, ethnic, gender, age, and other socio-economic groups, Vanderbilt has expanded its support network by developing new ways to create inclusive access to care for students at the Psychological and Counseling Center and by enhancing our wellness resources with the opening of the new Center for Student Wellbeing. Students and employees impacted by mental illness can also work with Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability (EAD) office to identify accommodations that may help alleviate some conditions that intensify an individual’s struggles. Moreover, the Chancellor’s Town Hall sessions this month, focusing on student mental health and wellness, provided additional insight for future efforts to expand our support network.
We must ensure that we are all aware that these resources not only exist, but where they are located and how to access them, so that we can effectively support those in need. We must ensure that all understand the importance of seeking consultation from the mental health resources on campus, while recognizing that efforts to provide support are complicated by societal barriers and stigma regarding mental illness. I ask you to take a few minutes to review the information on suicide warning signs and click on each of the below links to better familiarize yourself with our network of support.
Together, we can support one another and ensure a safe and caring environment. I also encourage each of you to be aware of your own wellness and reach out for support. We will be following up further at the beginning of the fall 2016 term to review, refresh, and update this information, and ensure our Vanderbilt family is fully supported.
Susan R. Wente
Distress intervention involving the imminent threat of harm or a life endangering situation
Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD)
Call (615) 421-1911 or 911 for emergencies and (615) 322-2745 for non emergencies.
Distress intervention involving an urgent situation without the imminent threat of harm
Psychological and Counseling Center (PCC)
The PCC located at 2015 Terrace Place (across the street from the Baker Building), offers numerous services to all Vanderbilt students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional), including individual and group psychotherapy, crisis management, psychiatric services, LD/ADHD assessment, alcohol and drug evaluations/counseling and community outreach. Faculty members may call the PCC at 615-322-2571 to learn more about the services offered or for a consultation about a student of concern.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Vanderbilt also provides resources to support the wellbeing of faculty and staff members. The Employee Assistance Program of Work/Life Connections provides support to faculty and staff members in dealing with stress, emotional health, relationships, family, finances, alcohol, drugs and other personal issues. Call Work/Life Connections-EAP at 615-936-1327 for a confidential appointment.
Distress intervention involving a non-urgent situation or minimally disruptive behavior
Psychological and Counseling Center (PCC)
The PCC offers drop in counseling on campus for non-urgent situations through Let’s Talk. They also offer a grief support group that is available on an as needed basis weekly.
Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability (EAD) Office
The EAD Office can work with individual faculty, staff, and students impacted by mental illness to identify and facilitate accommodations that may help alleviate some conditions and promote wellness.
Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life (OUCRL)
The OUCRL offers many resources to support and care for students, of all faiths and religious backgrounds, who are grieving or experiencing other types of distress, including questions of meaning and purpose, or spiritual/faith crises. Chaplains are available to meet with students individually or in group settings. OUCRL also offers GriefNet, a program that provides a safe, non-judgmental environment for grieving, receiving care, and for exploring how one may integrate loss into living. OUCRL neither assumes participants are a part of any faith tradition nor will it advocate for any particular beliefs or practices as it works with and cares for students. Students or faculty may call 615-322-2457 during business hours to learn more about OUCRL’s services.
Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education (to be named the Center for Student Wellbeing fall 2016)
The mission of the Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education is to promote a community of care at Vanderbilt University by fostering student wellness through an integrative and holistic framework. Through various outreach programs and support services, the office focuses on teaching coping skills in order to enhance resiliency, as well as alcohol and drug prevention programming and recovery support. Faculty members may call this office at 615-322-0480 during business hours for advice on student referrals. Updates on the new Center for Student Wellbeing for fall 2016 will be forthcoming.
Students in Distress: A Guide for Faculty and Staff
The Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education manages an online resource outlining how to approach students who may be in distress, make referrals, and receive further training.
Center for Teaching (CFT)
The Center for Teaching has developed a resource guide for addressing teaching in a time of crisis.
Mental health educational resources and trainings
This online course, first introduced to the campus through Chancellor Zeppos’ email of November 2012, demonstrates how to identify signs of psychological distress and refer students to support services through practiced interactions with virtual students. To take this course, follow the instructions below:
- Go to: http://www.kognitocampus.com/faculty
- Create a New Account
- Use enrollment key: Vanderbilt70
- Follow the on-screen instructions
- Choose your course and click “LAUNCH”
- If you experience any technical difficulties, please email email@example.com.
- Each of the six online modules takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.
Mental Health Awareness & Prevention of Suicide (MAPS)
MAPS is a joint initiative between Vanderbilt’s Psychological and Counseling Center (PCC) and Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education designed to prevent suicide in the campus community while promoting mental health awareness through the education of staff, faculty, and students regarding warning signs for risk of suicide.
Any interested faculty member is encouraged to sign up for MAPS training here. This training is in-person and takes about two hours.
Center for Teaching (CFT)
The Center for Teaching (CFT) has developed a resource guide for managing student stress through effective course design which is available here.