Committee seeks input on improving student mental health


A 12-member committee examining how to improve student mental health and well-being is seeking feedback from the university community through a series of upcoming virtual town halls.

The Student Mental Health Innovative Approaches Review Committee is inviting faculty and staff from across campus to participate in a town hall from 11 a.m.-noon April 1. Faculty and staff are also welcome to participate in a session for academic advisers from 1-2 p.m. April 5.  

In addition, students can share their thoughts from 5:30-7 p.m. March 24.

Registration information is available for all three sessions at A U-M uniqname and password are required.

“The work of this committee is vital as we work to strategically position our resources in order to comprehensively meet the emerging needs of our students,” said Amy Dittmar, senior vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs and a co-chair of the committee.

“The committee we have assembled and the outreach efforts exemplify the strong partnership across campus we need to take in serving our students.”

Last semester, Provost Susan M. Collins and Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon tasked the committee with exploring and recommending holistic, innovative approaches to addressing student mental health and well-being. It also is examining current resources at U-M and will provide recommendations on how they can be improved, expanded, measured for effectiveness and best communicated.

Harmon said he and Collins convened the committee based on “what we have heard from our students and learned over the years” about students’ mental health and well-being needs.

“This group will address these needs through innovative, holistic best practices in prevention and easily understood and accessible student support services,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the full complement of what the committee will ultimately recommend.”

Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones, another committee co-chair, said members are primarily focusing their work on eight areas:

  • Adopting a strategic framework for a campuswide approach to student mental health that prioritizes identity and sustainability.
  • Providing a comprehensive inventory of available student mental health resources on campus, identifying gaps and ensuring that the needs of diverse populations are met.
  • Providing a strategic approach to fostering connections and engagement for incoming undergraduate and graduate/professional students by implementing a resource navigator program in fall 2021.
  • Gathering and publicizing information about available health and well-being courses.
  • Enhancing the availability, awareness and use of health and well-being technology tools and applications, and using other technology to connect students to friends, study partners and study spaces on campus.
  • Using tools, metrics and innovative approaches to improve the delivery of counseling services.
  • Expanding the capacity of wellness coaching resources on campus, with new and existing staff and student peer coaches to supplement counseling services.
  • Taking actions to reduce sources of academic and other types of stress.

“The strategic commitment and partnership to student mental health and well-being embedded in what our committee is recommending creates great confidence and hope that we will be able to meet the diverse needs of our students and position them to thrive on campus,” Jones said.

Jones said members are building on the work of past campus initiatives, such as the Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force study and the report from the Task Force on a Michigan Undergraduate Education in the Third Century.

“A strong partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Life is essential, if the university is to have a comprehensive, effective approach to addressing student health and well-being,” Collins said.

“I’m thrilled to be partnering with VP Harmon and his team on this important work.”

In addition to the town hall meetings, committee members have scheduled several other outreach sessions in March and April with specific groups of students, faculty and staff across campus. Those groups include Central Student Government, University Council and the Campus Climate Advisory Council.

The committee is expected to issue a final report with recommendations in May.

Along with Dittmar and Jones, other committee members are:

  • Rob Ernst, associate vice president for health and wellness, and executive director, University Health Services.
  • Todd Sevig, director of Counseling and Psychological Services.
  • Mary Jo Desprez, director of Wolverine Wellness.
  • Sarah Jukaku, psychiatrist, University Health Services.
  • Kaaren Williamsen, director, Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.
  • Mark Moldwin, professor, College of Engineering.
  • Mike Solomon, dean, Rackham School of Graduate Studies and vice provost for academic affairs – graduate studies.
  • Mark West, dean, Law School.
  • Ram Mahalingam, professor, LSA.
  • John Piette, professor, School of Public Health.

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