The University of Michigan has created a holistic, strategic and comprehensive infrastructure to address the complex health and wellness needs of faculty, staff and students by launching a campus Well-being Collective.
The collective, which also will address policies and systems that affect well-being on campus, moves U-M a step closer to becoming a health-promoting university that infuses health into everyday operations, business practices and academic mandates.
The broad initiative will use an established framework, multidimensional approach and increased compassion to support the well-being of people, place and the planet.
“Our efforts are guided by the adoption of the Okanagan Charter, which calls on us to embed health into all aspects of campus culture,” said Laurie McCauley, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
“This collaborative campuswide effort of students, faculty and staff focuses on making U-M a better place to live, work and learn by implementing a systemwide approach to supporting well-being across campus,” said Martino Harmon, vice president for student life.
Since 2020, Student Life and the Office of the Provost have partnered to strategically initiate comprehensive actions to transform how the health and well-being needs of U-M students are addressed. Since then, the university adopted the Okanagan Charter and expanded efforts to also include faculty and staff.
Key components of the Well-being Collective include:
- An advisory council, consisting of institutional leaders with deep expertise, who can provide community connection, recommend content-area expertise, bridge the decentralization of campus, and provide guidance on emerging research.
- A steering committee, responsible for coordinating and sustaining long-term focus and goals.
- Work teams, responsible for implementing identified action items.
- An expanded well-being network that includes representatives from academic schools and colleges.
- Backbone support provided by Wolverine Wellness and a dedicated Well-being Collective lead.
“We understand that mental health and well-being are not simply matters of individual experience, but a state connected to one’s environment, as well as social and policy factors,” said Lindsey Mortenson, the university’s inaugural chief mental health officer.
“This effort cannot be accomplished by a single unit or department alone. It must be something we create collectively as a community, with everyone contributing to making U-M a better place to live, work and learn.”
Robert D. Ernst, U-M’s chief health officer, associate vice president for student life, and executive director of the University Health Service, said, “The work that these teams will undertake is crucial to the foundation of our envisioned effort to become a health-promoting university and to build an ecosystem that helps students, faculty and staff thrive in their personal and professional lives.”
The Well-being Collective’s inaugural steering committee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 12, and the first advisory council meeting will convene Nov. 2.
Student mental health task force
The origins of the Well-being Collective are rooted in the Student Mental Health Innovative Approaches Review Committee and a report the group published in 2021.
The report’s goal was to present new approaches to address student mental health and well-being, and to examine resources at U-M and provide recommendations on how they could be improved, expanded, measured for effectiveness and communicated to those who might need them.
Eight teams were created to implement the approved recommendations from the initial report. The teams focused on:
- Academic policies affecting well-being.
- Access improvement.
- Faculty capacity building.
- Graduate and professional student needs.
- Identity and well-being.
- Student engagement.
- Technology usage in service delivery and resource mapping.
- Wellness coaching expansion and creating a Well-being Academy.
Some of these teams will carry forward their work now that the infrastructure of the Well-being Collective has been created.
University leaders are working to ensure that the ideas and work from the Student Mental Health Innovative Review Committee are integrated into the Well-being Collective.
The new Well-being Collective website also outlines four themes identified by the Student Mental Health Innovative Approaches Review Committee Report and the progress those eight teams have made to date.
More details about the continuous work of the Well-being Collective, the common agenda, offerings and progress, as well as how individuals can get involved, can be found online.
Student Life partnered with Central Student Government to host Well-being Day on the Diag on Oct. 9. The event highlighted World Mental Health Day, which takes place Oct. 10, and encouraged students to check in on their well-being, pause and reflect on how they feel, and discover services and opportunities that are available to help them feel their best.
Mental health and well-being programming and activities were showcased throughout the day, including interactive informational sessions, yoga and guided mindfulness sessions.