Students on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus now have access to up to six free counseling sessions per year, including same-day appointments, thanks to an expanded partnership with the student teletherapy provider Uwill.
And in an effort to promote mental health and well-being for U-M faculty and staff, University Human Resources has recently created and filled a new position of chief behavioral health strategist.
The expansion of Uwill, which provides licensed mental health counseling services via phone, video and chat, aligns with the continued work of U-M’s Well-being Collective and U-M’s commitment to being a health-promoting university.
This tool complements services available through Counseling and Psychological Services, and expands capacity to meet students’ needs.
“The university continues to expand mental health care options and offer a greater variety of access points for students,” said Lindsey Mortenson, Student Life chief mental health officer and associate executive director of University Health Service. “We hear from students that they need more choices and fewer barriers when it comes to scheduling and ease of access.”
Recent studies have found that, for students, the rate of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, has steadily increased over the past eight years, with rates even higher among racial and ethnic minorities and marginalized student communities. Additionally, the rates of past trauma have increased significantly.
Mental health care has evolved rapidly over the past couple of years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the state of Michigan, 50% of mental health care is now delivered virtually and in new ways that transcend traditional models of clinical service delivery.
Uwill specializes in meeting the mental health needs of college students through easy online scheduling with therapists licensed in all 50 U.S. states and worldwide. The online scheduling platform allows students to sign up and schedule an appointment with their counselor of choice in less than two minutes.
“Research shows that students learn more, feel safer, and develop better relationships when their social and emotional needs are met through accessible mental health professionals who are licensed and knowledgeable about student issues,” said CAPS Director Todd Sevig.
“CAPS and U-M also take an approach that is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, we have created many options for students that fit their individual needs as well as community and systemic interventions.”
In addition to student-facing services, CAPS also offers resources for faculty and staff to better support students, including a guide and a faculty toolkit.
The Well-being Collective, launched last year, focuses on making U-M a better place to live, work and learn for students, faculty and staff by implementing a systemwide approach to supporting well-being across the campus.
Chief Health Officer Rob Ernst noted the collective is positioning U-M as a global leader in championing community well-being through a collective-impact approach that focuses on collaboration and information sharing and centers around equity and inclusion.
News and updates about the Well-being Collective can be found on its website.
While an initial emphasis was placed on the needs of students, the collective has evolved to address the mental health and well-being policies, systems and structures of the entire campus ecosystem, which includes the needs of U-M’s employees.
To ensure strategic planning and leadership over existing and new employee health and wellness services and resources, University Human Resources has named Kelcey Stratton to the new role of chief behavioral health strategist.
“The chief behavioral health strategist serves as a universitywide leader for faculty and staff mental and emotional well-being,” said Rich Holcomb, associate vice president for Human Resources. “This is an important position to add to the university because we believe prioritizing the mental health of our workforce is the right thing to do.”
Stratton is responsible for assessing, developing, implementing and evaluating the individual-, unit- and organizational-level strategies that support mental and emotional well-being for faculty and staff across the university, including Michigan Medicine.
She also will work to ensure strategic planning is intentional in addressing issues of equity and inclusion, as well as access to high-quality behavioral health care for faculty and staff.
Stratton will oversee the Michigan Medicine Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience and the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office, as well as develop strategic alignment between other mental and behavioral health services available to faculty and staff.