To provide coordinated resources and education in support of student mental health, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel today announced the University’s first systemwide initiative dedicated to a holistic approach to this significant public health issue—the President’s Initiative for Student Mental Health (PRISMH).
PRISMH, led by a cross-functional and system committee, will bring together a comprehensive collection of mental health and wellness services, programs, policies, research and academic practices from across the University’s five campuses and the state of Minnesota. PRISMH will consolidate and generate awareness of these resources to make them more easily accessible to students, destigmatize their use and promote student mental health best practices throughout the University’s campus communities and among other higher education institutions across the state.
“There has never been a greater need to address and support student mental health, with nearly 40 percent of 18-25 year olds seeking care for a wide range of mental health conditions,” Gabel said.
“Student mental health is a top priority, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for attention to this critical concern for our students’ well being,” Gabel continued. “We know that making mental health support widely available and accessible reduces one of the greatest barriers students face. We need a comprehensive approach to deliver existing services and explore new areas of research, partnership and discovery to advance the science and practices that address mental health challenges.”
Grounded in a public health approach, PRISMH will initially focus on three program pillars developed to help every student find and access the mental health resources they need to thrive. These pillars are:
- Research into the prevention and underlying causes of mental illness, as well as interventions and treatment;
- Outreach across the state, as well as collaboration with Minnesota State, Tribal colleges, and private colleges and universities; and
- The establishment of new campus services alongside the improvement of existing programs, policies and academic practices, including training and awareness programs for faculty, staff and students.
The foundational work behind PRISMH has already begun, with the PRISMH committee reviewing existing resources within the University system, as well as identifying or highlighting gaps within these current structures. The committee will use this environmental scan to recommend and launch pilot initiatives that support the program pillars and fill resource gaps. Early research findings and programmatic recommendations are expected to come within the next year.
Ultimately, as PRISMH programming evolves and more comprehensively captures all available University resources, it will be housed within the Office of Student Affairs on the Twin Cities campus, with work coordinated throughout the system. Leaders and membership for the PRISMH committee will include subject matter experts, as well as a broad and diverse representation of students, faculty, clinicians and staff. The committee will be co-chaired by Tabitha Grier-Reed, Ph.D., L.P., Professor, College of Education and Human Development, and Maggie Towle, Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Office for Student Affairs.
While PRISMH will be the largest and most comprehensive effort to address student mental health in the University’s history, it is not the first since Gabel’s inauguration in September 2019. In fact, Gabel’s inauguration ceremonies included a public forum to raise awareness of the challenge of student mental health. Gabel’s team also conducted an initial scan of mental health resources to begin to identify gaps, as well as opportunities to leverage existing strengths and resources.
In October 2020, the University co-hosted a statewide Mental Health Summit with Minnesota State, which was a wide-reaching, first-of-its-kind summit of Minnesota higher education leaders on this topic. The energy and participation in that event provides a strong indication of the collaborative possibilities for an ambitious mental health support program like PRISMH. Additionally, PRISMH will build upon steps taken by the University in recent years that have led to the expansion of counseling and psychiatric services across all five campuses, including increased hours of service.
- Campus Affairs