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Tag: Mental Health

Creating Inclusive Health and Counseling Centers

Your Guide to Best Practices

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of creating inclusive and welcoming health and counseling centers for LGBTQ+ students. Ensuring that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feel safe and supported is crucial for their overall well-being and academic success.

Here are some practical steps and best practices to make health and counseling centers more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.

1. Staff Training and Education:

Provide ongoing training for healthcare providers and counseling staff on LGBTQ+ health concerns and challenges. This includes understanding the specific mental health needs of LGBTQ+ students, as well as using inclusive language and respecting students’ preferred names and pronouns. Staff should be well-versed in cultural competency to create an environment where LGBTQ+ students feel seen and respected.

2. Inclusive Policies and Practices:

Work with campus leadership to develop and implement policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Ensure that these policies are clearly communicated to both staff and students. Incorporate inclusive practices such as providing gender-neutral bathrooms within your clinic and offering a range of options on intake forms to capture a student’s gender identity and preferred name. Make sure this information is prominently displayed in your EHR and scheduling systems so that staff can refer to a student the right way, the first time.

3. Visible Support and Resources:

Display LGBTQ+ affirming materials, such as posters, brochures, and pride flags in health and counseling centers. This visible support can help create a welcoming atmosphere. Additionally, provide resources and referrals to LGBTQ+-friendly healthcare providers and support groups both on-campus and in your local community.

Unique strategies for promoting resources to students can be found here.

4. Confidentiality and Privacy:

Ensure that confidentiality and privacy are prioritized, as many students may be concerned about being outed or facing discrimination. Reassure students that their information will be kept private and that their healthcare needs will be handled with sensitivity and respect.

5. Student Feedback and Involvement:

Engage LGBTQ+ students in the development and evaluation of health and counseling services. Solicit feedback through surveys, focus groups, and advisory committees to ensure that services are meeting their needs and to identify areas for improvement.

6. Comprehensive Coverage:

Advocate for student health insurance plans to include comprehensive coverage for LGBTQ+ healthcare needs. This should encompass routine care, mental health services, and specific needs such as hormone replacement therapy, gender-affirming surgeries, and other gender-affirming treatments. Ensuring that insurance plans do not exclude this type of care is critical for the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ students.

7. Policy Guidelines:

Refer to established guidelines and best practices, such as those provided by the American College Health Association (ACHA). ACHA provides a Trans-Inclusive College Health Programs guide for creating inclusive healthcare environments, for example. This guide provides recommendations on medical records, health informatics, mental health services, and continuing education and training.

8. Equitable Access:

Promote equitable access to healthcare services to ensure that all students can achieve their full academic potential. Addressing chronic or acute physical and mental health needs promptly can decrease the amount of time students lose to health issues and contribute to their overall success.

Real-World Examples and Best Practices

Drawing inspiration from successful initiatives in higher education, we can create more inclusive health and counseling centers.

Here are some examples of how schools across the country are prioritizing LGBTQ+ health and wellness:

  • Rutgers University offers comprehensive care for transgender and gender non-binary students through the Rutgers Center for Transgender Health. This center provides medical counseling, hormone therapy, hormone-level monitoring, and assistance with referrals to external providers such as surgeons and endocrinologists. Additionally, they help students with signing official name-change documents.

    Health services include continuous hormone therapy, laboratory testing, genital and chest reconstruction surgery, psychotherapy, and surgery to change secondary sex characteristics. Rutgers Student Health ensures gender-affirming care for all registered students, regardless of their insurance coverage, including those on the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).

    Counseling services include individual and group counseling, crisis management, substance abuse assessment and treatment, and psychiatric services. The center is dedicated to improving transgender and non-binary health through evidence-based care, research, and education, aiming to create a welcoming and supportive environment throughout the gender affirmation process.

  • Tufts University offers comprehensive, inclusive health services for LGBTQIA+ students, including specialized trans health care, hormone treatment, and gender-affirming surgery information. Students can self-identify their name, gender identity, and pronouns in records.

    Gender-affirming hormone Treatment (GAHT) and surgeries follow World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) guidelines, with support for medication and ongoing care. Insurance and billing assistance is available, and mental health support is provided throughout the process. The university also offers additional resources for ongoing support and name changes.

  • Ohio State University’s Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service (CCS) offers extensive mental health support for LGBTQ+ students through one-on-one counseling, drop-in consultations, and specialized workshops and support groups. Several therapists specialize in LGBTQ+ concerns. CCS supports groups for queer undergraduate and graduate students, plus transgender/non-binary students.

    The Gender Affirming Primary Care Clinic offers transition-related care, primary care, STI testing, HIV PrEP, vaccinations, hormone therapy, and referrals for gender-affirming surgery. The clinic emphasizes teaching future medical professionals to provide affirming care to the transgender community.

Key Takeaways

Creating inclusive health and counseling centers for LGBTQ+ students is not just about meeting regulatory requirements; it is about fostering an environment where all students can thrive.

By implementing practical steps such as staff training, inclusive clinic policies, and comprehensive healthcare coverage, institutions can ensure that LGBTQ+ students feel supported and valued. This, in turn, contributes to their academic success and overall well-being.

As we move forward, continuous engagement with the LGBTQ+ community will be essential in refining these practices and addressing emerging needs.

Learn more about how campuses are focusing on LGBTQ+ mental health here. Connect with a member of our team.

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New Reports in Medicat One Counseling

Learn About Other Must-Have Reports

Leveraging reports to better understand student mental health is vital for college campuses striving to provide comprehensive support services. One powerful tool to help achieve this understanding is the utilization of Medicat One Counseling Reports.

Let’s delve into some of the newest counseling-specific reports now available through Medicat One. Plus, we’ll explore other essential reports that can have a major impact on the way your clinic reports on key outcomes.

To take a tour of our reporting tool, click “Get Started” below:

New & Updated Reports Appointment Statistics

We’re excited to introduce the revamped Appointment Statistics report in M1 Counseling. Gone are the days of piecing together disparate data points from various reports in our Legacy platform; this new report offers a holistic view of appointment trends. While the previous iteration provided visit session and type counts, the revamped Appointment Statistics report offers a complete picture of no-show occurrences in comparison to the total number of students being seen. This data empowers providers to not only track appointment attendance but also identify trends and potential areas for improvement in appointment scheduling and communication with students.

Appointment statistics Medicat One

Demographics by School and Class

Along with the Appointment Statistics report, we know many schools we work with have been looking forward to the Demographics by School and Class report. This report offers a comprehensive snapshot of student demographics including appointment types, academic standing, school association (i.e. School of the Arts), ethnicity, gender, and more. No longer do providers need to sift through disparate sources to gather this vital information; this report seamlessly consolidates these data points, providing a clearer understanding of the unique needs and trends within each school and class.

Demographics by school & class

Notes of Concern

On college campuses, early intervention is essential. With the Notes of Concern report, providers can now access a bird’s eye view of instances where a concerned party (i.e. professor) reaches out about a student who hasn’t yet sought a counseling appointment. This proactive approach not only facilitates smoother intake processes but also provides valuable insight into the broader student population, particularly those who may not be actively engaged in treatment. As finals loom, the increase in Notes of Concern serves as a crucial gauge of the community’s well-being, ensuring that no student slips through the cracks of their school’s support system.

Notes of Concern Report

Additional Reports

Beyond the reports mentioned above, Medicat offers a suite of other valuable reports to empower campuses. Some of these include:

  • Staff Appointment Reports: This report goes a step further than the Provider Assignments report and offers detailed insights into average appointment durations by clinic and by provider, frequency of provider-student appointments, and an overview of the types of appointments each provider engages in.
  • Outreach Reports: Provides insights into the effectiveness of community outreach campaigns and campus engagement initiatives.
  • Referrals: This report provides a breakdown of referrals by transaction code and provider, enabling clinics to gain a deeper understanding of referral patterns and dynamics on their campus.

Leveraging these reports enables college campuses to optimize their counseling services and plays a crucial role in end-of-year reporting. By analyzing the data provided by these reports, counseling centers can gain valuable insights into the utilization of their services, trends in student mental health, and the effectiveness of their interventions throughout the academic year.

Additionally, these reports provide concrete evidence of the impact of counseling services on student well-being, which can be instrumental in securing funding, garnering support from administrators, and advocating for the expansion of mental health resources on campus.

Learn about the most commonly asked questions concerning counseling EHRs here.

Key Takeaways

By harnessing the insights provided by these new reports, counseling clinics can streamline operations, optimize resource allocation, and deliver high-quality care to students effectively.

Embracing data-driven decision-making empowers counseling professionals to adapt to evolving student needs, ultimately fostering a healthier and more resilient campus community.

Connect with our team to learn more about the different reports and features Medicat offers.

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Optimizing Community Referrals for Mental Health

Webinar Q&A recap with Michael Baker, CEO of ThrivingCampus and Courtney Nugent, Care Manager at Tufts University

The need to refer students to off-campus providers is an increasingly common reality. However, there are many challenges when it comes to successfully connecting your students with quality community providers!

1. Courtney, can you provide insights into how your campus manages mental health referrals to the community?

Certainly! At Tufts, we serve both undergraduate and graduate students across our campuses in Medford, Massachusetts, and Boston, including the SMFA Arts Campus.

Typically, we offer short-term care, although there’s no formal session limit. Some students prefer immediate off-campus referrals, while others require more complex care.

Approximately a quarter of our student population utilizes short-term care, facilitated by our sizable staff of over 20, comprising clinicians, prescribers, and urgent care providers. While clinicians primarily manage their referrals, as a care manager, I assist students needing additional support, particularly with insurance or navigating the healthcare system.

Additionally, I keep track of referrals from campus partners and students who self-refer. Our goal is to ensure seamless access to care for all students, regardless of their needs or circumstances.

2. What does the follow-up process look like for you, Courtney?

Typically, I schedule follow-up visits with students, either in a week or two weeks, depending on their plans. Additionally, I offer to stay in touch through the Medicat portal, providing students with the option to communicate with me securely.

After scheduling a follow-up, I send secure messages via Medicat at intervals of one week, two weeks, and three weeks if I haven’t heard back from the student. My outreach efforts cease after three attempts if there’s no response, although I always confirm that students have started outreach to providers before pausing my own communications.

3. Michael, are you seeing similar trends in other colleges?

Within ThrivingCampus, there’s a feature that functions similarly, sending students nudges to encourage engagement. Typically, we send the first nudge immediately after a student connects with care, then wait seven days before sending a second nudge if necessary. After three attempts, outreach ceases. Many schools express a desire to follow up with more students but must prioritize outreach for those in greatest need due to limited resources.

4. How do you ensure successful referrals?

Courtney: To ensure a successful referral, it’s crucial to establish rapport with students and create a safe space for them to express their preferences and needs. By encouraging students to voice their preferences aloud, we empower them to take charge of their mental health journey. I also emphasize instilling hope by highlighting the increased availability of providers over the years and reassuring students that we’re here to support them every step of the way. Additionally, I help students prioritize their preferences and set realistic expectations by discussing must-haves versus nice-to-haves. Normalizing roadblocks is also essential, as it’s common to encounter challenges during the referral process. By guiding students through these obstacles and encouraging persistence, we can navigate the journey together towards finding the right provider for them.

Michael: Ensuring successful referrals involves providing students with accessible pathways to care, whether they seek support independently or through a facilitated process like Courtney’s team. 60-70% of students use resources like ThrivingCampus to search for care independently, often facilitated by prominently placed links on counseling service websites. The remaining 30-40% of utilization occurs through team-led referrals, where customized referral lists are created for students. While technology aids in this process, our primary focus is on addressing low-tech challenges, such as ensuring provider availability, insurance acceptance, and basic compatibility. By streamlining access to care and prioritizing ease of communication between students and providers, we aim to maximize students’ opportunities to connect with suitable resources for their needs.

5. Michael, why is keeping the provider list up to date so important?

Providers have explained that they find it difficult to keep updated information on providers. I soon discovered that many counseling centers relied on outdated methods, such as Excel spreadsheets or physical notebooks, to track provider details like weekly availability and accepted insurance.

These methods were often inefficient, with sporadic attempts to update information annually, if at all. Clinics really need a tool that creates a centralized platform for providers to easily update their information, so it’s right at students’ fingertips.

6. What kind of trends are you seeing in telehealth availability?

Michael: The trend toward telehealth is growing, spurred by COVID-19’s impact. While some prefer in-person care, we’ve adapted our search results to highlight licensed telehealth providers. It’s about offering options—both in-person and virtual—to meet individuals’ changing needs and preferences.

Courtney: In the past year or so, I’ve noticed a shift in student preferences towards in-person care, especially in areas like Boston where there’s a high concentration of providers. However, as students begin their outreach, they often reconsider and opt for telehealth due to factors like convenience and availability. It’s critical to offer flexible options to meet students’ evolving needs and realities.

7. Do you have any tips for ensuring privacy during telehealth appointments?

A: We’ve collaborated with campus partners to establish a dedicated telehealth space in our library, which students can reserve online. Additionally, there are systems in place where students can register to book a classroom for their appointments.

While this initiative is relatively new, students have found success in using these reserved spaces for their privacy needs during telehealth appointments. It’s important to provide students with resources like reservation software to address challenges they may face in finding a private space for their appointments.

8. Courtney, how can schools streamline the referral process for students?

Courtney: Sharing these resources with students and empowering them to do research on their own is key. Many students are used to using these types of search tools, so they don’t need a ton of coaching there. Introducing the resource early in the process is what really makes the difference. I also schedule a short follow-up message once everything from our first meeting has digested a bit.

9. How can clinics prioritize student privacy throughout the referral process?

Michael: Student privacy is important and especially when we’re trying to share enough information about a student with a provider to coordinate a referral, you can consider doing that in a deidentified way. You can ask a provider if they have the capacity to work with a student on a particular type of concern, or if they take certain insurance, without providing any identifying information about the student.

Courtney: I try as much as I can to communicate through secure messages within the Medicat platform, instead of communicating over email. That’s the main way I keep student information and communication as private and secure as possible. If they’re not responding to secure messages, I’ll shoot them a quick (very generic) email prompting them to check the student portal for new messages from me.

Interested in watching the full webinar replay? Click here to access it.

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Developing a Multifaceted Approach to Supporting Students with Eating Disorders

Approximately 9% of people in the United States are estimated to experience an eating disorder at some point in their life. Given this prevalence, addressing eating disorders among college students requires a multifaceted approach, involving collaboration between various departments within your institution. Let’s explore strategies and initiatives aimed at providing comprehensive assistance to students with eating disorders, recognizing the importance of early identification and establishing clear referral pathways for effective intervention and support.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms in College Settings

Early identification of eating disorders is crucial for effective intervention and support. Training programs can be implemented to provide staff with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify warning signs and initiate appropriate interventions. These programs should also emphasize the importance of creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment where students feel comfortable seeking help.

In addition to staff training programs, colleges can establish screening mechanisms to proactively identify students at risk of developing eating disorders. These screenings can be integrated into health assessments or conducted through anonymous surveys to encourage honest responses.

Implementing a Holistic Support System for Students

A holistic support system encompasses various components that cater to the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of students with eating disorders. This includes combining the expertise of nutritionists, counselors, and medical professionals who specialize in eating disorders.

Student support groups focused on eating disorders can also be helpful. These groups foster a sense of community and provide opportunities for peer support. Moreover, they offer a safe space for students to share their experiences, gain insights from each other, and develop coping strategies.

In addition to individual counseling services, group therapy sessions can be organized to address common challenges faced by students with eating disorders. These sessions can focus on building self-esteem, improving body image, and developing healthy relationships with food.

Furthermore, incorporating mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation into the support system can help students manage stress and cultivate a positive relationship with their bodies. These practices promote self-awareness and can encourage students to redirect negative thoughts about themselves and their body image.

Learn more about how you can bring holistic wellness to your college here.

Creating Clear Referral Pathways

An essential part of a multifaceted approach is the establishment of clear referral pathways to external resources and treatment facilities. If colleges don’t have staff who specialize in eating disorder treatment, they should ensure they have external resources that they can connect students with. Clear referral pathways facilitate a seamless transition from internal support systems to external treatment and provide students with ongoing support throughout their recovery journey.

Additionally, colleges can create comprehensive resource guides that outline available external resources, treatment options, and support groups. These guides can be distributed to students, staff, and faculty to increase awareness and facilitate referrals when necessary. Taking these steps can help colleges ensure that students receive timely and appropriate care, ultimately promoting their well-being and academic success.

Key Takeaways

Developing a multifaceted approach is crucial for supporting students with eating disorders in educational settings. By employing the strategies mentioned above, colleges can provide comprehensive support for students with eating disorders and contribute to helping them lead happy, healthy lives.

Empower your college to make a positive impact on students’ well-being. Learn more about leveraging our counseling EHR solution to support your clinic and students.

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5 Must-Have Features in EHR Software for Counseling Centers

Counseling centers reap significant benefits when utilizing Electronic Health Record software to streamline their operations and provide more efficient care to students. However, with the various options available, it’s essential to identify the key features that can make a real difference in enhancing counseling services. In this blog, we explore five must-have features that every college counseling center should look for in their EHR software.

1. Secure Messaging

In today’s digital age, convenience and confidentiality are essential. EHR software equipped with secure messaging allows counselors to communicate with students securely, ensuring their privacy is protected. This functionality fosters seamless communication between counselors and students, enabling them to exchange messages confidentially. Additionally, secure messaging facilitates continuous support and engagement, providing students with access to their counselors for quick questions between face-to-face appointments.

2. Integration with Other Campus Resources

Impactful counseling often involves collaboration with other campus resources, such as health services and disability support clinics. Look for EHR software that seamlessly integrates with existing campus systems and allows counselors to access student information across departments and coordinate care more effectively. This integration promotes a holistic approach to student wellness and ensures that counselors have the necessary information to provide comprehensive support.

Discover how integrating their Counseling Center with the Health Clinic was a game-changer for Abilene Christian University.

3. Outcome Tracking and Reporting Tools

To assess the effectiveness of counseling services and identify areas for improvement, colleges need robust outcome tracking and reporting tools. Choose EHR software that offers built-in analytics capabilities, which will allow your counseling center to measure key performance indicators, track student progress over time, and generate comprehensive reports. These insights will enable your counseling center to make data-driven decisions, optimize resource allocation, and demonstrate the impact of services to key stakeholders.

4. Templates for Mental Health Assessments

Effective counseling begins with a comprehensive mental health assessment. Look for EHR software that offers both mental health assessments like CCAPS and the ability to create customizable templates or forms. These templates should allow counselors to capture essential information efficiently while ensuring flexibility to adapt to the unique needs of their clinic. For instance, Wofford College has created an entire suite of customized forms which has contributed to significant time savings for their clinic.

5. Compliance with Privacy Regulations

Protecting student privacy and confidentiality is essential for college counseling centers. It’s crucial to select an EHR vendor that not only adheres to important privacy regulations like HIPAA and FERPA, but also meets the rigorous standards of SOC 2 compliance. SOC 2 compliance ensures that the software provider has established and follows strict security protocols to protect sensitive student data. Features such as role-based access controls, audit logs, and encryption protocols play a crucial role in maintaining compliance and safeguarding student information against unauthorized access or breaches.

Key Takeaways

Selecting an EHR with the features mentioned above is key for counseling centers looking to enhance the quality and efficiency of their services. By prioritizing those features, clinics can optimize their operations and provide more effective support to students. With the right EHR software in place, colleges can ensure that their counseling centers remain at the forefront of student wellness initiatives.

Discover how Medicat’s Counseling EHR can streamline and optimize your counseling center’s operations with a self-guided tour.

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The Connection Between Movement and Mental Health

On average, people experience 3.4 poor mental health days per month. However, incorporating regular exercise into students’ routines can slash this number by about 40%. Surprising as it may seem, engaging in regular exercise can serve as a potent tool for bolstering mental health, offering a range of benefits that extend far beyond the physical realm.

In this blog, we’ll explore this fascinating correlation, uncovering how physical activity can positively influence psychological well-being and ultimately contribute to a happier, healthier campus community through the integration of physical activity into students’ daily lives.

How Exercise Improves Mental Health

As mental health and wellness advocates on campus, it’s crucial to understand the profound impact of regular exercise on students’ mental well-being. For instance, even running for 15 minutes or walking for an hour can reduce depression by 26%. That’s because physical activity signals to our bodies to release endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones, which can have a profound impact on emotional state. These neurotransmitters interact with receptors in the brain, reducing pain perception and triggering feelings of euphoria and well-being.

Additionally, exercise serves as a powerful tool for stress relief, helping to regulate the body’s stress response and manage levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with heightened stress levels. By engaging in physical activity, students can regulate their body’s stress response and manage cortisol levels, the hormone associated with heightened stress. Techniques like mindful movement or yoga promote relaxation and mindfulness, offering a calm refuge amidst life’s pressures.

Moreover, regular exercise has been linked to improved sleep quality, which in turn can have a profound impact on mood and energy levels. Physical activity helps regulate the body’s internal clock, promoting more restful and rejuvenating sleep patterns. You can experience the benefits of exercise in your sleep as early as the first day, with just 30 minutes of exercise leading to higher-quality sleep that same night.

Take it a step further and help create a fitness-friendly environment on your campus. Check out our tips for reducing gym intimidation.

Getting Started with Exercise for Mental Health

As advocates for mental health and wellness on campus, it’s important to recognize the journey of integrating exercise into students’ routines as both invigorating and challenging. The key lies in discovering activities that not only match their interests but also seamlessly fit into their busy schedules. By exploring various options, students are more likely to find something they genuinely enjoy and can commit to in the long-term.

Once students have found the right activity, it’s crucial to set realistic goals that align with their current fitness levels and lifestyles. Achievable goals not only keep them motivated but also prevent discouragement from setting in. Consider suggesting the SMART goal-setting strategy, which prioritizes the actual steps needed to achieve a specific outcome rather than solely focusing on the outcome itself.

To make exercise a sustainable habit, students should integrate it into their daily routines. Whether it’s taking a brisk walk between classes, or attending a mid-day fitness class, finding ways to seamlessly incorporate physical activity into their day-to-day lives is essential. Encouraging students to enlist the support of a workout buddy or join group fitness classes can provide added motivation and accountability. Additionally, prioritizing enjoyment by selecting activities that bring genuine joy and anticipation will help students stay committed to their exercise routines.

Key Takeaways

The correlation between exercise and student mental health is undeniable. It serves as a powerful tool for enhancing mood, relieving stress, and promoting restful sleep, ultimately contributing to a happier, healthier life.

Exercise is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a healthy lifestyle; discover how embracing a holistic wellness approach can unlock key benefits across your campus.

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Key Insights from ACE’s Six Considerations Report

Navigating Student Mental Health

In the landscape of higher education, the profound challenges surrounding the mental well-being of college students have reached alarming levels, demanding urgent attention from institutional leaders. The gravity of this issue has intensified over the past decade, with suicide now standing as the second leading cause of death among college-aged students.

As a comprehensive examination of the mental health crisis unfolds, it’s evident that the issue transcends the confines of counseling centers—it’s a pervasive campus-wide challenge that higher education leaders cannot simply hire their way out of.

This blog post delves into the findings of the American Council on Education’s (ACE) recent report, Six Considerations for Student Mental Health in Higher Education for the 2023-24 Academic Year. The report sheds light on six critical areas related to student mental health that demand attention and offers valuable insights for higher education leaders on effectively navigating this complex landscape.

Student mental health

1. The Crucial Role of Counseling Centers and Addressing Turnover

The first point ACE addresses is the staffing challenges faced by counseling centers. Staffing challenges in higher education have been exacerbated by the pandemic, bringing to light the strains on an already overworked system.

Reduced stigma around mental health issues before 2020 prompted an expansion of services and outreach on campuses, but the pandemic created additional caseload strains. A significant aspect of this challenge is the “great resignation,” with 60 percent of counseling centers experiencing higher-than-pre-pandemic staff turnover, as counselors sought more lucrative opportunities and autonomy in private practice or other sectors.

Employee burnout is fueled by factors such as non-competitive salaries and increased workloads due to unfilled positions. The evolving organizational structure of counseling centers, including the removal of directors, reflects a broader shift in meeting student mental health needs.

ACE urges leaders to reconsider service delivery, potentially hiring case managers to handle nonclinical issues and exploring supplemental care services like teletherapy. Moreover, to address burnout and retain staff, leaders should benchmark salaries, focus on retention strategies, and assess staff caseloads using tools like the Clinical Load Index.

Access tips regarding how to make teletherapy more sustainable for your campus here.

2. Breaking Barriers: Cultivating Inclusive Degree Pathways in Mental Health

The next point that ACE emphasizes is the importance of making it more accessible for aspiring mental health professionals, especially those who are students of color and LGBTQ+, to pursue their education and career paths.

The challenges within the mental health sector extend beyond turnover; there is a critical shortage of mental health providers across the United States, with an estimated need for over 100,000 professionals to adequately address the needs of primary and secondary schools.

The scarcity becomes even more pronounced in communities of color and for LGBTQ+ individuals. Recognizing the pivotal role that colleges and universities play, especially in training the next generation of therapists, leaders are urged to create pathways that inspire students to consider counseling careers. The report mentions that incentives such as financial aid, scholarships, and grants can encourage students from historically underserved backgrounds to explore this pathway.

Additionally, leaders should explore ways to expedite the time to degree completion, ensuring that students earn their master’s degrees more efficiently. These initiatives not only benefit the institutions by adequately staffing counseling centers but also contribute to addressing the broader mental health needs of the country.

3. Expanding Upon Positive Federal Initiatives

ACE highlights that we need to build upon the current positive movement that federal and state governments have been making regarding student mental health. The federal government, under the Biden-Harris administration, has made significant strides in addressing mental health concerns in higher education. The Department of Education’s guidance on using Education Emergency Relief Fund dollars specifically for mental health needs stands out, alongside a substantial allocation of nearly $100 million through the Safer Communities Act to support mental health and student well-being.

State leaders are also taking diverse approaches. For instance, the University System of Georgia has initiated a comprehensive mental health effort, incorporating teletherapy to ensure universal access to care. Furthermore, Utah officials are actively collaborating with public higher education institutions to implement a mobile crisis unit, anti-stigma campaigns, and crisis-worker coursework. 

With mental health gaining substantial attention at both federal and state levels, college and university leaders are urged to leverage these initiatives as foundational support. By collaborating with policymakers, boards, and system offices, leaders can further advocate for and strengthen mental health support for students.

4. Embracing Data-Driven Transformation

The next topic addressed in ACE’s report is the importance of implementing evidence-based practices and documenting their impact. Effectively navigating the complex landscape of student mental health requires colleges and universities to carefully choose and invest in evidence-based practices. Despite the plethora of solutions available, not all interventions have proven effective, and the evidence is often scattered across various departments, clinics, and disciplines.

The American Council on Education’s open-access brief, “What Works for Improving Mental Health in Higher Education,”offers valuable insights derived from a comprehensive and multidisciplinary review, categorizing strategies into those with proven effectiveness, promising evidence, and proven ineffectiveness. Campuses can leverage different methods and resources for assessing program effectiveness and mental health impact.

Interested in learning more about data-driven approaches to improving student well-being? Discover how easy reporting can be on your campus.

Widely used measurements like the Healthy Minds Study and the National College Health Assessment offer periodic insights, while tools like the Wellbeing Improvement Survey for Higher Education Settings (WISHES) provide actionable data to adapt institutional structures. Disaggregating data by demographic groups is crucial for identifying and supporting struggling student cohorts.  

Additionally, before adopting third-party solutions, campus leaders are encouraged to scrutinize the evidence supporting their effectiveness and ensure ongoing data collection to measure the return on investment and the actual benefits to student mental health.         

5. Leaning into Public Health-Informed Solutions 

The next consideration ACE emphasizes is the importance of focusing on public health and trauma-informed approaches to address mental health challenges. In the pursuit of enhancing student mental health, college and university leaders are urged to adopt a dual approach, incorporating both public health- and trauma-informed strategies.

Unlike historical reactive measures, a public health-informed approach seeks to address mental health comprehensively and proactively, emphasizing the promotion of healthy lifestyles and establishing systems for prevention, intervention, and postvention.

The JED Foundation’s JED Campus model serves as an exemplary illustration of this approach, focusing on systemic support to prevent crises. Simultaneously, recognizing the rise in pre-college traumatic incidents and the collective trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions must embrace trauma-informed approaches. Behavioral symptoms, often outcomes of coping with adverse experiences, necessitate engagement with trauma-informed professionals to frame solutions, resources, and training.

One doesn’t need to be a therapist to support students effectively. Leaders, faculty, and staff can contribute to a trauma-informed environment by fostering psychological safety, encouraging collaboration and empowerment, and practicing empathy.  Leaders must acknowledge that a student’s ability to learn and academically advance depends greatly on their mental health.

One-off approaches, such as an online education module or hiring more staff in the counseling center, do not systematically address the issues that impact student mental health. Taking data into account when implementing public health initiatives and trauma-informed strategies can encourage leaders to rethink how to build resilient and adaptive structures on campus to address the root causes of their biggest challenges.

6. Beyond Orientation: The Growing Importance of Educating New Students

The final consideration from ACE’s report is to anticipate that incoming college students will expect there to be mental health support on campus. The transition from K–12 education to higher education is marked by the increasing prevalence of mental health challenges among students. Recent findings from Mental Health America indicate that a significant percentage of youth aged 12 to 17 have experienced major depressive episodes, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating mental health-related emergency department visits for this age group.

High school graduates affected by the pandemic now express uncertainty about attending college, emphasizing the lasting effects on students’ perspectives. The current cohort of ninth graders, who navigated middle school during the pandemic, also faced disruption during the transition to high school, prompting increased mental health resources in K–12 settings.

The report emphasizes that campus leaders must be proactive in meeting the needs and expectations of incoming students and parents. Strategies include:

  • Aligning mental health resources with pandemic-related concerns across academic departments
  • Fostering outreach and partnerships with K–12 institutions
  • Educating the community on appropriate mental health referrals
  • Integrating mental health resources seamlessly into the college experience, particularly during the first-year journey

Key Takeaways

The insights from the American Council on Education’s recent report shed light on critical aspects of our educational landscape. As we navigate the complex terrain of campus challenges and opportunities, it’s evident that understanding and addressing the identified trends and recommendations will be instrumental in shaping the future of higher education. The report serves as a valuable resource for educators, policymakers, and stakeholders alike, offering a roadmap for fostering inclusivity, innovation, and excellence in our educational systems.

Looking for more concrete tips and ideas for enhancing your clinic’s effectiveness on campus? Check out our Q&A with Katherine Cornelius, Director of Counseling at Belmont University here to get inspired.

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Focusing on LGBTQ+ Mental Health in Higher Education

BEYOND BINARY

In the corridors of academia, the journey of LGBTQ+ students unfolds amidst unique challenges that often cast shadows on their mental well-being and academic pursuits.

Navigating a landscape that requires not just intellectual fortitude, but resilience in the face of societal stigmas, these students grapple with a distinct set of mental health struggles. Creating a safe and accepting environment can make a significant difference in LGBTQ+ students’ mental health outcomes.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the following topics:

  • LGBTQ+ mental health facts and figures
  • The need for inclusive mental health services
  • The power of supportive communities

Continue reading and discover the importance of creating a safe space for the mental well-being of LGBTQ+ students in higher education, where acceptance is key to success and growth.

Behind the Figures: A Closer Look at LGBTQ+ Mental Health Realities

The mental health disparities faced by LGBTQ+ students are well-documented. According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation compared to their heterosexual peers. Specifically, LGBTQ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder during their lifetime. Discrimination, stigma, lack of support, and lack of acceptance contribute significantly to these disparities.

It’s important to delve deeper into these statistics to fully comprehend the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. This alarming statistic highlights the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support and intervention programs tailored specifically for LGBTQ+ students on campus.

Furthermore, a lack of acceptance can have a profound impact on the mental well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals. Many LGBTQ+ individuals experience rejection from their families and friends, which can result in feelings of isolation and loneliness. These feelings of social isolation can exacerbate mental health conditions and make it even more challenging for individuals to seek support.

Another significant factor contributing to the mental health disparities is the limited access to LGBTQ+-friendly healthcare providers. LGBTQ+ individuals often face barriers when seeking mental health services, as many healthcare professionals may lack the necessary knowledge and cultural competence to provide appropriate care. This lack of access to affirming and inclusive healthcare can further marginalize LGBTQ+ individuals and hinder their ability to receive the support they need.

Furthermore, the mental health struggles faced by LGBTQ+ students can have a profound impact on their academic performance and overall educational journey. Many LGBTQ+ students report experiencing heightened levels of stress, fear, and isolation, which can contribute to higher dropout rates. For instance, about 1 in 4 LGBTQ+ college students have considered dropping out of college due to mental health issues. It is imperative for educational institutions to proactively address these challenges to ensure LGBTQ+ students have the support they need to succeed.

Understanding these statistics is crucial for educational institutions to recognize the urgency of providing targeted support and interventions for LGBTQ+ students. By addressing the unique mental health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals, educational institutions can create a more inclusive and supportive environment, ultimately improving the overall well-being of LGBTQ+ students.

The Need for Inclusive Mental Health Services

One of the biggest challenges faced by LGBTQ+ students is the scarcity of inclusive mental health services. For instance, according to AAMC, “more than 150 million people live in federally designated mental health professional shortage areas.” Moreover, many mental health professionals may lack knowledge and understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, leading to misdiagnosis or inadequate treatment. This can further exacerbate the struggles these students face and hinder their ability to thrive in an academic setting.

However, the importance of inclusive mental health services cannot be overstated. LGBTQ+ students often experience unique challenges and stressors that can have a significant impact on their mental well-being. From navigating their sexual orientation or gender identity to facing discrimination and prejudice, these individuals require specialized support to address their mental health needs effectively.

By providing inclusive mental health services, educational institutions can address these shortcomings. This involves:

  • Training mental health professionals on LGBTQ+ mental health issues
  • Ensuring practitioners are equipped to provide appropriate care without bias or discrimination
  • Creating safe and welcoming spaces where LGBTQ+ students can openly discuss their concerns and seek help without fear of judgment or rejection

Moreover, inclusive mental health services go beyond just addressing immediate concerns. They play a crucial role in promoting long-term mental wellness and resilience among LGBTQ+ students. By providing access to counseling, therapy, and support groups specifically tailored to their needs, educational institutions can empower these students to develop healthy coping mechanisms, build self-esteem, and foster a sense of belonging.

The Power of Supportive Communities

Supportive communities play an integral role in LGBTQ+ students’ mental health. Having a network of friends, peers, and mentors who understand and accept their identity can provide a sense of belonging and emotional support. It’s essential for LGBTQ+ students to have a safe space where they can freely express themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination.

Unfortunately, not all LGBTQ+ students have access to such communities. Some may come from conservative backgrounds or live in areas where LGBTQ+ acceptance is limited. These students often face isolation and loneliness, which can have detrimental effects on their mental well-being. To combat these issues, 22% of LGBTQ+ people picked a college that was far from home to find a more welcoming environment. Without a support system, they may struggle with self-acceptance and experience higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Educational institutions play a crucial role in fostering supportive communities for LGBTQ+ students. By creating LGBTQ+ student organizations, support groups, and gender-inclusive housing, universities and colleges can provide a platform for students to connect with like-minded individuals, share experiences, and seek guidance. These spaces offer a sense of belonging and validation, which can significantly improve mental health outcomes.

Moreover, it is not enough to merely establish these organizations; educational institutions must also ensure that they’re inclusive and welcoming. Providing LGBTQ+ cultural competency training to faculty, staff, and students is vital in creating a more accepting campus environment. This training equips individuals with the knowledge and understanding necessary to support and advocate for students effectively.

Key Takeaways

The mental health struggles faced by LGBTQ+ students are profound and multifaceted, rooted in societal challenges, discrimination, and a lack of understanding. The stark statistics highlight the urgent need for comprehensive support systems within educational institutions. By recognizing and addressing these unique challenges, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and affirming environment.

Take your counseling center to new heights and better serve your students. Learn more about supporting students across campus.

Interested in learning more about how your campus health solutions can become more integrated and impactful?  Connect with a member of our team.

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Understanding the Impact of Seasonal Depression on College Students

It’s no secret that college students face a number of mental health challenges, and seasonal depression is one of them. Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during certain times of the year, often in response to shorter days and less sunlight. It’s not uncommon for college students to experience this kind of depression, so it is important for universities to recognize the potential symptoms and have an action plan in place to help those affected.

In this blog, we’ll explore:

  • The causes and symptoms of seasonal depression
  • What colleges can do to create a supportive environment
  • How college counseling centers can help

Exploring the Causes of Seasonal Depression

It’s estimated that around 5% of adults suffer from SAD, but the exact cause of this condition is not yet fully understood. Still, it’s believed to be due to a combination of factors such as:

  • Lack of sunlight. Winter-onset SAD may be caused by the decrease in the amount of sunlight during fall and winter, impacting the internal clock.
  • Changes in serotonin levels. Reduced sunlight can result in serotonin levels dropping which can impact mood and contribute to SAD.
  • Melatonin disruption. Changing seasons can impact the melatonin balance in our bodies, impacting mood and sleep patterns.

Overall, it’s essential to understand the potential causes and effects of seasonal depression amongst college students so that individuals can receive the necessary support during these periods. Creating awareness about SAD on college campuses can ensure that students have access to resources available for them to cope with this disorder effectively.

Seasonal Depression Infographic
Source: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-more-than-the-winter-blues

Recognizing the Symptoms of Seasonal Depression in College Students

To recognize the symptoms of seasonal depression, it’s important to be aware of both physical and emotional indicators. Low energy levels, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and feelings of irritability are all possible signs of seasonal depression. Environmental and lifestyle factors can also increase one’s risk. For example, decreased sunlight exposure due to shorter days as well as increased stress from academic pressures or social events during the winter months may all play a role in triggering the condition. Understanding these potential triggers is key to helping college students recognize when they may be at risk so that they can seek help accordingly.

How College Counseling Centers Can Help Students with Seasonal Depression:

  • Therapy and group sessions: College counseling centers are an invaluable resource for students suffering from seasonal depression. Counselors can provide one-on-one or group therapy sessions, helping students develop coping strategies and lifestyle modifications to reduce the severity of their symptoms. They can also offer referrals (on campus or off campus) for further medical treatment if needed.
  • Educational resources: Counseling centers can also provide educational resources to help students understand the causes and effects of seasonal depression. Understanding how their environment, lifestyle choices, and mental health impact their emotions is essential to being able to manage their symptoms effectively. Resources may include books, brochures, posters around campus, videos, or even online seminars that explain seasonal depression in detail and provide information about available treatments and coping techniques.
  • Accessibility: It’s critical for universities to create a supportive environment for any student battling this condition. College counseling centers should be easily accessible so that anyone needing help can utilize them quickly without jumping over hurdles. Additionally, counselors can ensure that all resources are tailored specifically to each student’s individual needs, allowing them to receive the best possible care for their condition.

By promoting counseling services, universities can provide support for students dealing with seasonal depression and increase awareness of the condition on campus. This could reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage more people to seek help when needed during dark and dreary winter months. With the right support, college students can overcome seasonal depression and make the most of their college experience.

What College Leaders Can Do to Combat Seasonal Depression on Campus:

To combat seasonal depression on college campuses, it’s imperative to provide students with the necessary resources and create a supportive environment.

  • Partnering with local organizations: Universities should partner with local organizations in the community, so students have access to outside mental health resources if needed.
  • Ensure faculty is aware: Additionally, professors should be understanding of any absences due to mental health issues and provide accommodations as necessary. College administrators should make sure that faculty members are well-informed about the signs of seasonal depression so they can refer struggling students to counseling services if needed.
  • Wellness activities: Furthermore, universities should organize activities throughout the year that promote mental health, such as offering yoga or mindfulness exercises, offering peer-to-peer support groups, or hosting workshops about how to manage stress.

By taking these proactive steps towards creating a supportive environment on campus, colleges will be better prepared to help their student body cope with any issues related to seasonal depression.

Key Takeaways

Understanding the impact of seasonal depression on college students is a critical step toward addressing the mental health challenges they face. SAD can affect a significant portion of the college population, but with the right strategies in place, universities can provide crucial support. By exploring the causes and symptoms of this disorder, raising awareness on campus, and utilizing the resources available at college counseling centers, students can receive the necessary care to cope effectively with seasonal depression.

Curious to learn more about Medicat? Experience the benefits of our EHR firsthand. Take an interactive tour of key features and see how they can enhance mental health support on your campus.

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Enhancing Counseling Outreach

Insights from Belmont University

Are you curious about the inner workings of a university counseling center and how they support student mental health? During our recent Top of Mind counseling webinar, we sat down with Katherine Cornelius, the Director of Counseling at Belmont University, to discuss various aspects of campus counseling, including innovative programs like Walk and Talk, challenges with intern training, HIPAA compliance, and counselor caseloads. Her valuable insights provide a glimpse into the world of campus counseling and how institutions like Belmont are adapting to meet the diverse needs of their students.

Below are some questions we received during the webinar from our viewers and what Katherine had to say:

Q1: What are some ways you’ve gotten students to engage with your outreach programming?

Katherine: Our Walk and Talk program is a unique approach to counseling that we’ve implemented at Belmont. The Walk and Talk cards play an essential role in this initiative. They are essentially a set of prompts or questions designed to encourage meaningful and reflective conversations between a student and their peer while walking outdoors. These cards help facilitate open discussions about various topics, allowing students to connect with their peers in a more relaxed and informal setting. We’ve seen great success with Walk and Talk on our campus.

Want to dive deeper into the Walk and Talk activity? Check out this clip from our webinar with some example questions from Katherine here.

Q2: I’m seeing increased challenges with training interns to do outreach work (collaborating and building ideas together), as well as attracting new staff who are interested in doing both outreach as well as the 1:1 clinical work. I’m wondering if this speaks to similar experiences you described with students struggling to come together…any thoughts?

Katherine: “We’ve definitely noticed the same thing, and I think you’re right that it’s connected! The common thread is collaboration, whether among students or within the counseling team. Encouraging interns to engage in outreach work and attracting staff interested in a diverse set of responsibilities are shared goals. By recognizing these common challenges, your counseling team can develop strategies to address them effectively.”

Q3: We’re considering Walk and Talk and things of that nature. Any tips on handling HIPAA and confidentiality, especially if a closed group wants to go out on campus?

Katherine: To ensure students’ privacy and security, the counseling team talks through these concerns with the group before heading out. Closed groups, who mutually agree to participate, discuss potential privacy issues and arrive at solutions that protect confidentiality while still allowing for an open and therapeutic environment. This approach ensures that students can benefit from these unique counseling experiences without compromising their privacy.

Q4: What does the caseload look like for each clinician, if they also have outreach responsibilities on their plate?

Katherine: Clinicians carry a caseload of 20-25 clients per week, focusing on clinical care for four days. Additionally, they dedicate one day a week to serving in the walk-in clinic. While clinical care is their primary responsibility, each clinician also serves in one extra area, showcasing the multifaceted roles and commitments of counseling professionals at Belmont.

Key Takeaways

Thank you again to Katherine for being a part of our webinar and providing valuable insights to our audience! We hope you found these Q&As helpful and gained a deeper understanding of the intricate web of responsibilities and initiatives that make up successful outreach events for college counseling centers. Katherine’s insights on innovative programs such as Walk and Talk, the training challenges that accompany outreach work, and the meticulous handling of confidentiality concerns provide a comprehensive view of the ever-evolving field of campus counseling.

Access the full webinar recording and accompanying resources here.

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