October 26, 2016

Mental Wellness Task Force aims to address stressors, promote student success

Purdue's Mental Wellness Task Force has set up a website and created an e-newsletter that provide resources for faculty, staff, students and others interested in promoting mental wellness on campus. The coalition, made up of campus and community partners, has identified month-by-month stressors students may face and developed five universal messages so that individuals can better work to promote mental wellness among students.

The Mental Wellness Task Force was commissioned in April in response to the Purdue Student Government's platform, which was focused heavily on mental wellness.

"The requests for services were exceeding the capacity of the staff available," says Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life. "As a campus community and nationally we were witnessing an increased demand for mental health services." To address this demand, Purdue commissioned the Mental Wellness Task Force, co-chaired by Julie Cox and Tammy Loew.

Internal restructuring and additional funding allowed for the hire of new counseling staff to meet the needs of more students. 

"Our CAPS services at Purdue have expanded to meet this demand, but as part of this expansion, Purdue's comprehensive model has also expanded to promote mental wellness," Loew says. "This means that all campus partners can assist students in developing important life skills to better cope and become more resilient." It is the Mental Wellness Task Force's mission to create a wellness environment for students that supports student success. 

The task force has identified stressors that may affect students at certain times of the year, such as homesickness, final exams, interviews, employment pressures and more. Information about these stressors educates individuals about what to expect and how to refer students to help them navigate challenges throughout the year.

To help students work through these stressors, the task force developed the following five universal messages that faculty, staff and students can incorporate into student interactions.

* Problem Solving: Everyone has challenges and experiences obstacles. Knowing when to ask for help is key!

* Failure: Failure is an important part of learning and success.

* Core Values: College life requires clarifying values and adapting to a new normal.

* Coping with stress: Stress is natural and can become overwhelming. Building resiliency to cope with stress means finding healthy ways to de-stress.

* Interpersonal relationships: Understanding how to communicate and develop relationships is key to success. This includes respecting each other, sharing your feelings, supporting each other, and finding gratitude.

The task force suggests a myriad of resources for campus and community partners to refer to. Links on the Mental Wellness Task Force website to campus resources, such as the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, Recreation and Wellness, Center for Career Opportunities and Student Success promote these resources and can help students better deal with stress. The Mental Wellness Task Force offers presentations about mental wellness and training sessions in suicide prevention addressing students of concern.

Throughout the year, the task force will send e-newsletters to promote activities, resources and ideas to create an environment at Purdue that promotes resiliency and coping. Individuals interested in receiving the newsletter should contact Julie Cox at jtalz@purdue.edu. More information about the Mental Wellness Task Force can be found at http://www.purdue.edu/vpsl/resources/MentalWellness.html.

Writer: Kelsey Schnieders, kschnied@purdue.edu

Sources: Tammy Loew, tfloew@purdue.edu

Julie Cox, jtalz@purdue.edu

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