University Committed to Fostering and Promoting Mental Health and Wellness
The University is offering a variety of innovative ways for members of the University community to seek mental health support, including two grant-funded training sessions that empower faculty, staff, and students to help those who might be struggling.
September 13, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
For Paige Bartels, LCSW, making sure all Chargers receive the mental health care they need is a critical and demonstrable way to show that the University community and its members are valued. That’s why she’s so dedicated to ensuring that resources are available for everyone, and she’s helping to ensure students, faculty, and staff play an integral role in supporting each other.
The University is promoting mental health and providing support in a variety of areas, from overall wellness to suicide prevention. The University is now offering training to members of the University community to empower them and equip them with the tools they need to support each other. Bartels, director of the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), says this is more critical than ever, as the United States is facing what she calls a “mental health crisis.”
“Mental health struggles were on the rise pre-pandemic, but the collective trauma we experienced as a result of the pandemic, compounded by racial and social justice tensions and the political climate, have impacted more people than ever,” she explains. “I’ve seen an increase in our utilization and an increase in the acuity of the needs we are seeing, meaning students seeking mental health care are struggling in a more significant way than they have in the past.”
‘The gold standard of recommended interventions’
The University is now offering two evidence-based training programs to members of the University community, tools that, Bartels hopes, will bring Chargers together in the effort to promote mental health.
The Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) program trains individuals without a counseling or intervention background to respond to others who may be feeling suicidal. During the 2-3-hour training, participants learn about suicidal thinking, as well as how to respond and help someone who is struggling. They learn, for example, what resources are available and how to refer someone to them.
The University is also offering Mental Health First Aid, a longer and more in-depth program that covers responding to anyone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. The day-long sessions are offered to small groups of faculty and staff on a voluntary basis, enabling them to support students who might be struggling.
“We chose these initiatives because they are evidence based, offer practical skills and opportunities to practice those skills, and leave learners feeling more confident in intervening when they encounter a student – or anyone – who may be dealing with mental health challenges,” said Bartels. “These are interventions recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the gold standard of recommended interventions.”
‘We care about our community and our fellow humans’
The grant-funded training is supported by a program launched to support colleges and universities across Connecticut to help them respond to the ongoing student mental health challenges in the wake of the pandemic. Governor Ned Lamont visited the University late last year to announce the launch of the Connecticut Campus Mental Health Program that dedicates nearly $3 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) to support mental health. Bartels says a crucial goal of that grant was widening the support net on campus, enabling more Chargers to feel competent intervening with those who might be struggling.
The University is also dedicated to promoting wellness as a whole, and Bartels hopes to encourage faculty, staff, and students to focus on their well-being. In addition to a health and wellness fair planned for October, CAPS is involving students in fostering wellness among members of the University community. CAPS has hired a team of students to serve as Community Wellness Advocates, and they will provide peer-led support groups and targeted outreach to the University community to broaden and enhance support for mental health and wellness.
“A way to show that we care about our community and our fellow humans is to ensure that they are receiving the mental health care that they need,” said Bartels. “A way to care about ourselves is to attend to our own needs. This also means that resources need to be available for folks to care for their own mental health.”