The University is offering a number of innovative ways for University members to seek mental health support, including two grant-funded training sessions that empower faculty, staff and students to help those who may be struggling.
September 13, 2022
For Paige Bartels, LCSW, making sure all chargers get the mental health care they need is a critical and demonstrable way to show the University community and its members are valued. That’s why she’s so committed to making sure resources are available to everyone, and she’s helping students, faculty, and staff play an integral role in supporting each other.
The university is promoting mental health and offering support in a range of areas, from general wellbeing to suicide prevention. The University is now providing 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 faces what she calls a “mental health crisis.”
“Mental health struggles were on the rise before the pandemic, but the collective trauma we’ve experienced as a result of the pandemic, coupled with racial and social justice tensions and the political climate, has affected people more than ever,” she explains. “I’ve seen an increase in our utilization and an increase in the acuity of need that we’re seeing, which means students seeking mental health care are struggling in a more significant way than 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 unite the Chargers in the effort to promote mental health.
The Ask, Convince, 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 the response to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis. One-day sessions are offered to small groups of faculty and staff on a voluntary basis, enabling them to support students who may be struggling.
“We chose these initiatives because they are evidence-based, provide practical skills and opportunities to practice those skills, and leave students feeling more confident about intervening when they encounter a student — or anyone — who may be dealing with mental health challenges,” Bartels said. . “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 people”
The grant-funded training is supported by a program launched to support colleges and universities across Connecticut to help them respond to 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 is awarding nearly $3 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Grants (GEER) to support mental health. Bartels says a crucial goal of that grant was to expand the support network on campus, enabling more chargers to feel competent to intervene with those who might be struggling.
The university is also committed to promoting wellness as a whole, and Bartels hopes to encourage faculty, staff and students to focus on their own wellness. In addition to a health and wellness fair planned for October, CAPS is involving students in promoting 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 expand and increase support for mental health and wellness.
“One way to show that we care about our community and our people is to make sure they get the mental health care they need,” Bartels said. “One way to take care of ourselves is to take care of our needs. It also means that resources need to be available for people to look after their mental health.”