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Student Mental Health Initiative planning for spring semester

IU Chief Health Officer Aaron Carroll. Photo by Indiana University IU Chief Health Officer Aaron Carroll. Photo by Indiana UniversityA telehealth service to provide students with 24/7 mental health care will add to the growing list of initiatives Indiana University has launched to improve mental health and well-being resources across its campuses.

The Indiana University Student Mental Health Initiative began in February with the inception of three task forces that met throughout the spring semester and summer, creating specific action items to be initiated in the fall semester.

“Through the work and ideas from the task forces and the dedication from our Office of the Chief Health Officer team, we have made significant strides in providing more resources and raising awareness about mental health and wellness,” IU Chief Health Officer Aaron Carroll said.

Over the fall semester, the team focused primarily on raising awareness of campus resources and better understanding students’ needs and knowledge of how and where to access services.

To raise awareness, a campaign was launched around World Mental Health Day through a pop-up event on each campus. The October campaign, “Unboxed: Open up about mental health,” encouraged students to talk about mental health and speak up if they or someone they know is struggling.

During the campaign launch, information was provided about the resources available at IU through the student mental health website as well as how to start the conversation with someone who might need help.

“We need to be open to talking about mental health,” Carroll said. “We need students to feel OK reaching out for help and knowing how to take care of themselves in every regard.

“This campaign is the tip of the iceberg for the plans we have to help normalize talking about mental health and improving our students’ utilization of resources when they need them.”

In addition to raising awareness, the team surveyed 24,000 students across all IU campuses to better understand how students learn about mental health resources on campus, how and when they use them, and how the university can better communicate about mental health with the student population. The survey provided valuable insights to help develop programming and communications moving forward.

Furthermore, a university-wide mental health advisory council and a student mental health advisory council, both with representation from all campuses, were created to advise programming and communications, per task force recommendations.

Moving into the spring semester, the Office of the Chief Health Officer is finalizing an agreement with a telehealth service to start providing mental health care and resources 24/7 early in 2023. Adding this option will enhance the services IU currently provides to students on all campuses as well as for online students.

“Having a telehealth option for our students is going to allow another way to access services when needed and help us to further address any capacity concerns on our campuses,” Carroll said.

The Office of the Chief Health Officer is also working to expand mental health trainings for students, faculty and staff, roll out the U Bring Change to Mind student group to all campuses, and continue developing the Unboxed awareness campaign. The team will also continue to conduct surveys and meet with the advisory teams to develop strategies in propelling the initiative forward, with student mental health and wellness always top of mind.