From the Desk of William Stackman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Colleges and universities nationwide are in the midst of a mental health crisis, and Mizzou is no exception. Moreover, global events including the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak are contributing to stress and anxiety for many people.
According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment (2018), nearly nine out of ten feel overwhelmed by all they had to do.
Majorities of students feel exhausted, lonely, sad and anxious. Many feel hopeless, depressed and angry.
Here at Mizzou, student health and well-being is the No. 1 priority of Student Affairs, and mental health is an essential part of that. It has to be, because the reality is so grim.
Acknowledging the problem is a good place to start, but it’s not enough. That’s why I want to tell you a bit about what we’re already doing to address the issue and what we’re planning to do.
Close to home
National data shows that 12% of students have considered suicide, and nearly 2% have attempted to take their own lives. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. And yet, 65% of students with anxiety or depression do not seek treatment.
According to Partners in Prevention data for the state of Missouri, slightly more than half of all college students were suffering from anxiety in 2019 — a 30% increase over five years. A third are experiencing severe depression — a 63% increase.
At Mizzou, mental health conditions are the second leading reason students request accommodations from the Disability Center. The Counseling Center saw 40% more students in fall 2019 than fall 2018. Urgent appointments were up 26%.
The point is clear: We must do more to look after our students’ mental health.
Where we are
We’re aware of concerns about access at the Counseling Center. Currently, the Counseling Center offers crisis services 24/7 to students with urgent mental health concerns. Students can call or drop by the Counseling Center during business hours; after hours mental health professionals are available by phone.
The current wait time for an assessment appointment with the Counseling Center is one week or less. Wait times vary throughout the semester, but immediate access is always available for those in crisis.
To be completely honest, we face challenges here at Mizzou. Our Counseling Center is short staffed. We have struggled to hire and retain. Care providers in the community are likewise unable to keep up with demand. We’re aware that Mizzou students feel underserved.
That’s why we’re implementing a three-prong approach to address mental health issues at Mizzou. The first prong is the application of internal resources. Two new licensed mental health professionals will start at the Counseling Center this semester and more are coming.
We’re working on a new clinical model that will improve access and significantly reduce wait times for initial appointments. We anticipate a fall launch.
We’re expanding the Student Accountability & Support Care Team to help more students navigate mental health and other areas of concern.
We’re normalizing mental health to let students know it’s OK to not be OK. We’re reaching them with targeted messaging, based on what we’re learning from a new student committee on mental health.
Chancellor Cartwright has appointed a task force to ensure we’re meeting students’ needs. A new working group is looking for ways to better triage students who need mental health care, and how to implement a rapid access model to assess their needs.
The second prong introduces external resources. Our students will take part in the National College Health Assessment, so we can take a data-informed approach to creating programs.
The Jed Foundation will spend a full year evaluating our efforts to address mental health at Mizzou. We’re in conversation with experts in student mental health from Cornell and Notre Dame.
The third prong involves simple, effective tools like Sanvello, a resource for students as well as faculty and staff, to help manage stress, anxiety and depression.
We continue to offer RESPOND training, which provides a basic overview of symptoms often associated with mental health problems and offers an action plan to help you respond effectively.
Likewise, we want all members of our community to take part in Ask Listen Refer, a 20-minute online suicide prevention training program created for campuses throughout Missouri.
What you can do
As a faculty member or advisor, you play an essential role in addressing the mental health crisis. Here are a few simple steps you can take.
• Download Sanvello and talk to your students about it.
• Enroll in Ask Listen Refer and RESPOND training.
• Know what to do if your student is experiencing a crisis.
• Integrate mental health into classroom discussions.
• Get to know the Student Accountability & Support Care Team and familiarize yourself with the ways they can help students.
• Talk to your deans and department chairs and to the Dean of Students about how they are prepared to support you.
• Make time to listen to students who are struggling. Ask clarifying questions to get a fuller sense of what they’re dealing with and make sure they feel heard.
• Contact Christy Hutton, director of the Wellness Resource Center and Assistant Director for Outreach and Prevention in the Counseling Center, and invite her to speak to your faculty about simple steps you can take and who can help.
• Seek out resources on mindful meditation to share with students.
Anytime you feel over your head, need more support, or just have general concerns, please call the Dean of Students or me — my phone number is below.
As my friend Jim Spain reminded me, Mizzou has a long history. The institution has faced numerous challenges and difficult times. And each time, the institution has worked to overcome the challenges.
The challenge we are facing now is a sobering one, but together we can overcome it and prepare Mizzou for the great future that is possible.
Dr. William B. Stackman
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
2202 MU Student Center
911 East Rollins Street
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211