A new resource focused on sharing information and strategies for supporting students’ mental health is now available for faculty at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus.

“Fostering a Campus Environment Supportive of Student Mental Health” is intended to provide those leading classrooms or labs with the knowledge and resources to help a student in distress, as well as create a campus environment supportive of student mental health.

It was developed by U-M Counseling and Psychological Services working closely with the CAPS Student Advisory Board, and incorporates feedback from multiple faculty focus groups.

“CAPS has long had a vision to research and develop a compelling toolkit for faculty who are in positions to identify students at risk in order to equip them with the information needed to create an emotionally healthy environment and to direct students to support and resources,” said CAPS Director Todd Sevig.

“The toolkit adds an important systemic layer of identification, prevention and intervention in a coordinated fashion for our campus.”

The toolkit — available in hard copy form — is being sent to about 4,500 faculty on campus starting this week.

It provides guidance and strategies in the areas of:

  • Promoting student mental health and well-being.
  • Creating an inclusive classroom community.
  • Incorporating mindfulness and stress reduction techniques into the classroom.
  • Identifying signs and behaviors of a student in distress.
  • Respecting a student’s right to confidentiality while seeking services.

The strategies in the guide are based on research as well as ideas, techniques and tips that U-M faculty and students shared to be effective in supporting student mental health and well-being.

“A brief conversation between a student and a faculty member who is informed about the wide range of support services and the university resources available to that student can make a world of difference in helping students navigate successfully to graduation,” said Christine Asidao, associate director of community engagement and outreach at CAPS.

The toolkit compliments other existing efforts by CAPS to create a supportive campus environment, including:

  • CAPS website with information for faculty and staff.
  • The CAPS-Central Student Government effort to have mental health information on all course syllabi.
  • The CAPS Embedded Model (CAPS staff in 13 of the 19 schools and colleges).
  • CAPS Suicide Prevention training to thousands of campus constituents.

CAPS provides free and confidential services to enrolled undergraduate, graduate and professional students in the areas of individual and couple counseling, group therapy and support, drop-in workshops, consultations and screenings, crisis services and case management, as well as referral services.

According to the CAPS 2018-19 Annual Report, more than 5,000 students sought out services to address concerns such as anxiety, depression and stress. That number represents a growing annual trend of increases in requests for services through CAPS each academic year.

Of those seeking individual counseling sessions, nearly three-fourths visited CAPS for five sessions or less. 

The largest percentage (31.6 percent) of those seeking services were graduate and professional students, followed by first year students (18.6 percent), sophomores (17.4 percent), juniors (16 percent) and seniors (12.4 percent).

Visits to the CAPS office peaked in the fall with the most visits occurring during September and October, respectively.

The toolkit was made possible by a donation from the Baldwin Foundation.

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