The Indiana University Student Mental Health Initiative continues moving forward, with plans for a number of task force recommendations to be in place by the fall semester. Since the February announcement of the university-wide initiative and creation of the related mental health resources website, the three task forces have met a number of times to develop ideas and strategies for fulfilling their individual charges.
"Mental health affects us all and needs to be something we can all discuss, without judgment," said Bernice Pescosolido, director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at IU Bloomington and co-chair of the Culture and Climate Task Force. "Throughout our meetings, I have been so impressed with the thoughtfulness, dedication and understanding of the importance of helping our students and improving access and knowledge of resources available."
Each of the three task forces -- Culture and Climate, Services and Support, and Policies and Protocols -- developed a series of recommendations for its area of focus. The groups will work with Dr. Aaron Carroll, IU chief health officer and leader of the Student Mental Health Initiative, to get as many components as possible up and running for the fall semester.
"There is no one-size-fits-all solution to mental health and well-being," Carroll said. "Through this initiative, we're looking at our students' mental health from all angles. We want to ensure not only that they have access to resources to proactively manage their health but also know how, when and where to get help should they need it."
The task forces' recommendations account for both ensuring students know how to access all of the resources on their campus -- including 1:1 counseling and the many peer-to-peer resources available -- as well as understanding what to do in a crisis. The Culture and Climate Task Force is recommending a number of actions, including making IU a safe and stigma-free zone, integrating mental health topics into student organizations, and educating students, faculty and staff on how to respond to a mental health crisis or incident.
The Services and Support Task Force recommendations include ensuring accountability for following through with the strategic plan, increasing the number of mental health professionals available to students, faculty and staff, and determining the best way to help the most at-risk students.
The Policies and Protocols Task Force focused on recommendations that would expand the university's "infrastructure of care," better support all students and remove barriers to accessing care.
"We have a very solid list of recommendations from all of our task forces, which will undoubtedly move our university forward in terms of how we care for our students' mental health," Carroll said.
Carroll will present the task forces' recommendations to the IU Board of Trustees during its June meeting and then continue working with the groups to identify what will be implemented by the beginning of the fall semester.