Chancellor's Communique

Supporting our students' mental health and wellness, 5-30-19

Dear colleagues, 

As we increase our efforts to meet the mental health needs of the state and region, I want to take a moment to discuss the well-being of our community right here on campus.
Health care can be a demanding profession. More than half of providers in this country experience symptoms of stress and burnout, and the problem extends to those learning to become providers. Here at CU Anschutz, 89 percent of our students report having felt overwhelmed or exhausted in the past year, and 63 percent experienced overwhelming anxiety.
In this place of exceedingly high achievement, it’s critical for us to maintain a nurturing campus environment with easily accessible resources that promote our students’ mental health and well-being. To that end, a working group of leaders from all our schools and colleges recently assessed our efforts and recommended ways to streamline the path for students to receive mental health support. We’ve since put significant resources behind improving the efficiency and expertise of our clinical help and providing other supports.
Accessible clinical help
Students may receive mental health services at two locations on campus.
  • The Campus Health Center (on the second floor of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center) provides integrated care for students’ physical and mental health. The center is operated by the College of Nursing, with mental health services provided by the Department of Psychiatry. It can often accommodate walk-ins or same-day appointments for physical health and has a daily behavior health crisis walk-in hour from 3-4 p.m.

  • The center is now coordinating closely with the Student Mental Health Service (SMHS - in the Fitzsimons Building, level 2, east hallway), operated by the Department of Psychiatry, which provides comprehensive and confidential mental health services for all students -- and, starting last year, for residents and fellows. Services include medication management, individual psychotherapy, and group therapy/support groups in such areas as eating disorders, substance use disorders, OCD and ADHD.  SMHS offers telehealth appointments for students on away rotation within Colorado, and the Student Health Insurance Plan also offers their own 24/7 online counseling.

These two clinics recently created a joint appointment line for mental health services, at 303-724-4716. Both accept most insurance and have zero copay for students on the Student Health Insurance Plan.
Recognizing and supporting students in distress
The Office of Case Management has in the past year increased its efforts to support students in distress. A revamped website includes resources for students facing temporary financial hardship or food insecurity, as well as a form for faculty, staff or students to refer a studentwho may be struggling or exhibiting troubled behavior, to help get her/him connected to resources for success.
New initiatives
The Healthy Campus Steering Committee was convened in 2017 to provide strategic direction for student health promotion work. After identifying students’ wants and needs based on student survey results, the committee is implementing the following initiatives:
  • Beginning this summer, students will be able to access YOU@CUAnschutz, a one-stop wellness portal that connects them with campus resources and other educational tools to increase their success. The customized portal promotes self-reflection and growth in three areas of student life: academics, physical/mental health and purpose/connection.

  • In the coming academic year, the Office of Student Health Promotion will be offering trainings in Mental Health First Aid, the skills needed to provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.

  • Also coming next year is a student peer coaching program, in which students will receive one-on-one support from peers trained as wellness coaches. Topic areas may include stress management and mindfulness, fostering positive social connections, goal setting, academic skills enrichment and navigating campus resources.

  • Finally, a Student Wellness Navigator position has been created, to work with the schools/colleges to create a culture of care for students and help them navigate support resources.

Student-led wellness efforts
With the energy and drive that characterize our student body, many students themselves are leading a variety of wellness initiatives. Through the Student Health Promotion Committee, students representing each school/college are implementing initiatives like free fitness classes and mental health Lunch-and-Learns. The Student Senate sponsors mental wellness programming such as Stress Fest​, a week in May to decompress from the stress of finals. And the newly formalized Student Advocates for Mental Health group continues to coordinate bi-annual anti-stigma panels, in which students share their own experiences with mental health issues.
As we prepare our students to lead as future health care professionals, we must also provide them with the support and resources they need to cope with the challenges inherent in their profession. I’m proud of how our campus is bolstering efforts to support mental well-being, which is so essential to the success of each one of us.
Don Elliman
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