Student Mental Health and Supportive Help: College of Public Health Receives Second SAMHSA Suicide Prevention Grant
The back-to-school season is in full swing, and students, faculty and staff are preparing to take on the increased workload once again. While the process is a fulfilling and rewarding experience, often the fast-paced lifestyle leaves little time for much else.
However, Kim Laurene, Ph.D. and Deric Kenne, Ph.D., professors in the College of Public Health, and Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Lamar R. Hylton, Ph.D., are committed to prioritizing mental health upkeep by supporting and expanding pre-existing services and programs offered at Kent State.
Laurene, Kenne and Hylton have received $306,000 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to fund work with other Kent State affiliates to improve and support mental health and wellness across all eight campuses. This is the second time they have received this funding.
The More Aware initiative provides and or promotes various trainings, screenings, innovative programs and educational campaigns through a collaborative approach. The ongoing initiative encourages people to not only practice help-seeking behavior but also provides resources designed to reduce stigma and accurately define mental health conditions.
“The Division of Student Affairs is excited about the continued partnership with the College of Public Health as we elevate, expand, and enhance mental health at Kent State. We know that a laser focus on equipping students with tools and resources that contribute to a positive mental health is directly aligned with our mission to retain and graduate students as well as our commitment to Flashes taking care of Flashes,” Hylton said. “I am grateful to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for affording us these important resources that allow us to elevate our work.”
A greater need for mental health support was intensified during the pandemic, which brought about many unprecedented hardships that affected the lives of virtually everyone. From financial security to social distancing, people were forced to recognize a lack of control and sought help by the masses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression increased by 31% from June 2019 to December 2020.
“People are reporting increases in mental distress,” Laurene said. “It's vital we continue to offer workshops focusing on self-care as well as trainings on how to connect those in mental distress to professional resources.”
Through various initiatives with key campus partners within More Aware, the College of Public Health focuses its efforts on five key areas within the program:
Through partnership with community and university stakeholders this program will generate increased awareness for services and provide affiliates with the resources necessary to accurately identify individuals experiencing distress. These initiative courses, trainings and workshops act as a reliable starting point for those seeking additional information about mental wellness.
A wide variety of in-person and online trainings for students, faculty and staff, ensure that those with mental health concerns for themselves or others have the resources available to increase their understanding of mental illness, reduce inaccurate preconceived assumptions and develop skills necessary to aid those who exhibit warning signs.
Mental Health Screenings:
Free to all students, faculty and staff, these anonymous evaluations are offered to those who may be struggling with mental illness or addiction. This series of tests can help determine if recent thoughts or behaviors correlate with any common mental health disorders and act as a reliable starting point for the help seeking process.
Awareness of Mental Health Services:
To ensure the continued progress of mental health promotional efforts, this initiative involves collaborating with multi-cultural organizations throughout the campus to ensure efforts are reaching an inclusive and diverse audience.
Working to increase awareness of available services, these organizations create successful print and media campaigns that act as one voice, committed to the advancement of mental health perception within the university.
Disseminate Educational Materials:
U Goods, an online workshop focused on mental wellness at Kent State, offers a wide range of events focusing on the different areas of mental health concern, such as substance use, suicide prevention, self awareness and coping skills. This peer-led program is being manualized for other institutions and organizations to use.
“The way someone views themselves and others is greatly influenced by external factors,” Kenne said. “If we can address the misconceptions, provide information and encourage participation within these trainings, the stigma can be diminished.”