Our Education: World Mental Health Day brings awareness, advocates against stigma – Alton Telegraph

EDWARDSVILLE — One in three college students reports having symptoms in line with at least one mental health disorder, according to a 2018 World Health Organization study.

Marked on Oct. 10, World Mental Health Day promoted global awareness and education of mental health. The day aims to bring attention to the reality of mental health and advocate against stigma.

“Mental health is not a supplemental or ancillary aspect of the human experience,” said Courtney Boddie, PhD, director of SIUE Counseling Services. “Instead, it is a core element of being that enables functioning and is necessary for success in the classroom. When students are psychologically well, they can perform academically, integrate socially and persist to graduation.”

According to the 2019 Healthy Minds Study, nearly half of American college students believe that there is a perceived public stigma against those who seek mental health treatment. The same study reported that mental health issues are on the rise in college students, reporting that 23% of college students are taking psychiatric medication, an increase from 18% in previous years.

“We are seeing the cumulative effect of having spent the past 30-40 years destigmatizing mental health and strengthening help-seeking behavior among students without having simultaneously prepared for the necessary increases to systems of care,” explained Boddie. “When paired with the challenges of life in the 21st century, it is clear that there is a crisis, but it is likely one of supply, not demand.”

While providing mental health services to SIUE, Counseling Services strives to deliver evidence-based clinical practices, create a University-wide culture of mental health awareness and wellness, and promote an awareness of the mental health resources available on campus.

Counseling Services is actively engaged in national dialogues about the best clinical practices regarding mental health on campus, and is continuously evaluating best practices and implementing new ways to support SIUE students. By developing and enforcing clinical benchmarks such as visits per week, as well as quality assurance and outcome metrics, the staff hopes to combat growing mental health issues among students while continuing to decrease the stigma.

Among its initiatives, Counseling Services is transitioning to a model of stepped care and a brief, by-the-SMART Goal approach to care. Services will begin with the most effective but least resource intensive treatment for students, and will “step up” to more resource intensive, specialized treatments only when necessary. According to Boddie, treatment goals will be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Additionally, Counseling Services has created the following positions to strengthen its services and enhance operational efficiency:

  • Behavioral health case manager
  • Coordinator for outreach and prevention education
  • Associate director

In conjunction with these changes, Counseling Services has expanded the internship program to have social services and assessment tracks, in addition to the existing clinical track, in order to increase provider clinical availability for new clients.

Student-readiness is central to Counseling Service’s approach to providing psychological care on campus, and staff, and providers wish to remain attuned to the campus experience while ensuring professional development. Boddie states that a goal for Counseling Services is to enhance their alignment with Enrollment Management to be better connected to themes in future student enrollment and trends.

On World Mental Health Day, and every day, Boddie urges individuals to remember, “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.”