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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Campus Life Council discusses on-campus mental health initiatives

The Campus Life Council and Health and Wellness division representatives discussed the state of student mental health and goals for increasing awareness of on-campus resources.

The Campus Life Council (CLC) welcomed Chris Conway, director of the University Counseling Center (UCC) and Margaret Morgan, director of the Center for Student Support and Care, to discuss the state of student wellness resources on campus Monday.

Chaired by student body president Daniel Jung, the CLC is a committee composed of nine students, six rectors, two faculty members and one representative of the Division of Student Affairs.

As students head into a busy period of the semester, Conway said it is not uncommon for the UCC to see an increase in demand for its services. Typically, more students seek out counseling services in the fall semester compared to the spring. Both Conway and Morgan said each center is focused on ensuring students and faculty are aware of the resources available.

While the pandemic caused an increase in the use of mental health resources on campus, Conway and Morgan said these numbers are stabilizing to levels similar to pre-pandemic conditions.

Morgan said one of the biggest obstacles toward providing the correct treatment and help for students is confusion as to what comprises the Health and Wellness division at Notre Dame. She explained that there are four departments involved: the UCC, University Health Services (UHS), the McDonald Center for Student Wellbeing (“McWell”) and the Center for Student Support and Care, which includes Sara Bea accessibility services and care and wellness consultants.

To help students discern where to go for help, Morgan and Conway said the Health and Wellness division has circulated a Step Care Model and most recently the Interactive Wellness Tool. It is an ongoing goal of the Health and Wellness division and CLC to promote awareness of the Interactive Wellness Tool as a first-step for students that believe they are in need of counseling or other mental health services.

“[The Interactive Wellness Tool] launched last year. And it’s meant to answer that question that I think Chris and I and health and wellness people get often of, like, ‘where do I go?’” Morgan said. “And so it was meant to be a tool that helps people answer a couple questions to get the referral to the right resource and the place that they actually needed to go.”

Once a student discerns where to find the help they need, the services are individually tailored to each student, Morgan said. 

“Our process is meant to be individualized. We don’t have, like, a menu of accommodations that students can choose from,” she said. “But we really just started through a conversation of like, ‘what’s the concern that you’re experiencing?’ and ‘how can we help you navigate that barrier or remove that barrier?’”

Morgan and Conway both said although mental health treatment is highly individualized, awareness of the resources is the opposite — it depends on each member of the community learning about the resources for the sake of their neighbor. Emphasis on increasing this “bystander awareness” remains a current goal for McWell and UCC.

“You may feel like you don’t need this, but the person sitting next to you or someone you love or one of your good friends may need this and, in that moment, you’re going to want to know where to take them,” Morgan said. “One of the things I love about Notre Dame is that, most often, people are motivated by what they can do for the person next to them.”

In studies conducted by McWell and UCC, the data pointed to four key trends in factors that impact the mental health of students at Notre Dame, Morgan said. 

“What we have seen in the data is students who agree they belong at Notre Dame, agree that Notre Dame is a campus where we look out for each other, make rest a high or essential priority and feel supported by faculty and staff have better mental health,” Morgan said.

According to Morgan and Conway, these findings are essential in providing actionable steps that students and faculty can take to both combat and prevent mental crises in their campus communities. 

“Mental health is a huge concern on-campus, in our country, we hear all these things. And these steps here are very practical things that we can do,” Morgan said. “Every person can work to make one other person feel like they belong here.”