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Mental health position is established at UConn

The Chronicle - 11/21/2020

Nov. 20--STORRS -- The University of Connecticut has established and filled a new position that will work to support mental health services for minority students.

That is one of several other actions being taken in response to the recommendations provided in the recently released report by a mental health task force.

In a letter to the UConn community Monday, UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said student mental health is one of the most " pressing" current issues in higher education.

" The need for mental health services among students has gone up throughout the nation in recent years, including here at UConn," he wrote. " Understanding and meeting that need for our students is one of my highest priorities as president."

In March, Katsouleas established the President's Task Force on Mental Health and Wellness in response to the concerns of students, who expressed to UConn officials that mental health services at UConn were significantly inadequate.

The group, which includes faculty, staff

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UConn has a new mental health post

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and students, is co-chaired by Associate Vice President/ Dean of Students Eleanor Daugherty and Dean of the School of Social Work Nina Heller.

A survey conducted in the spring by Active Minds, a student group, showed, since the pandemic, 20 percent of college students reported their mental health had significantly worsened and 80 percent reported the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health, with stress, anxiety, disappointment, sadness, loneliness or isolation being the primary expressions.

One of the main points of the task force's report, according to Katsouleas, is mental health and wellness " must be an institution- wide undertaking, not the work of one department."

" It's important that we get started right away," he wrote. " This is not a report that will remain on a shelf. In fact, we are already moving forward."

For example, Student Health & Wellness (SHaW) recently hired the first director of health equity and access to care, Ronnie McLean.

McLean will be responsible for developing and implementing a strategy that will support the mental health and overall well- being of minority students.

The university will also increase the hours of SHaW's mental health staff and is immediately reviewing the use of police during medical transports.

Meanwhile, Student Affairs is scheduled to make new hires in mental health and other health promotions during the spring semester, including diversity/ inclusive positions and increasing placements for social workers.

" These needs also align with our efforts to build a culture of life- transformative education at UConn, where students have equitable access to the opportunities and resources they need to thrive in their academic experience," Katsouleas wrote.

" The well- being of our community will also be an important asset in our strategic planning efforts going forward."

In the summer, a review will be conducted of the medical and mental health services at the regional campuses.

" This commitment is echoed by the Mental Care Act enacted by Undergraduate Student Government Student Services," Katsouleas wrote.

" It is clear from students, student leadership and the task force that more attention must be paid to providing access to care to our regional students."

He thanked the members of the task force, as well as the students who shared their perspectives and experiences with mental health services at UConn, " all of which were so valuable to the task force for completing their work."

The full report is available at bit. ly/ 3fe5yDs.

Follow Michelle Warren on Twitter -- @ mwarrentc.


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