UNC and North Carolina health and wellness leaders discussed how an online student mental health hub could increase the amount of resources for students — especially with COVID-19's increasing toll on mental health.
UNC's Mental Health Task Force met Friday to discuss the benefit of two self-help resources and the potential for this new online mental health hub.
- UNC pays for two self-help resources for students: a self assessment tool and a crisis text line.
- Sara Stahlman, marketing and communication coordinator for Campus Health, spoke about the usefulness of UNC’s online self-assessment tool in terms of activity and cost.
- Stahlman said over the past year, the most popular screening was for depression and anxiety.
- Isha Padhye, a chairperson of the mental health committee within Student Government, said although the self-assessment is a great tool, it does not provide a way for students to be immediately contacted like the crisis text line does.
- “If a student is having thoughts that need immediate attention, (the) crisis text line provides them with a counselor and someone to talk to immediately,” Padhye said.
- Attendees considered the cost-benefit of keeping both resources.
- Dean Blackburn, director of Student Wellness and associate dean of students, said he believes both resources are helpful and did not favor cutting one for another.
- Stahlman said although she believes in the value of both resources, the crisis text line is already available to students, and she is unsure if UNC’s annual payment is necessary. This is because the text line does not refer students exclusively to campus resources.
- Dr. Allen O’Barr, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, spoke about a solution to implement a keyword within the text line that would identify UNC students.
- Jessica Lambert Ward, coordinator for academic appeals, said she thinks direction to campus resources is vital.
- “If we’re telling students the resources that are critical in this moment are outside of the UNC community, then we’re telling students that they don’t belong here,” Ward said.
- The possibility of designing an online student mental health hub was also discussed.
- Stahlman said the goal of this online space would be to help students, staff and faculty recognize general mental health strategies and how to react in crisis situations.
- Neel Swamy, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, said the hub should also include information on the cause of mental health concerns and preventative measures.
- Stahlman said a similar page already exists on Carolina Together’s website, but she would like to expand it so it can stand alone.
- Chancellor’s Fellow Nicholas Sengstaken said he was concerned about creating another website for this goal and suggested adding it to an existing one.
- “We create so many websites that we make it almost impossible for students to find resources,” Sengstaken said.
- Blackburn said it would be beneficial to have a central website, but it should be accessible across existing webpages.
- The task force is planning to move forward in designing the online mental health hub in preparation for the fall.
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