Students, staff working to address growing demand for mental health services
In the face of growing demand, UW–Madison administrators and students are working together to improve the availability of mental health services across campus.
Manasi Mohan, a member of a task force reviewing mental health services at UW–Madison, told the UW System Board of Regents last week that students are coalescing on the issue of mental health because the challenges they face are universal. At UW–Madison, the number of students seeking mental health services through University Health Services has increased 35 percent in five years.
“Whether it’s a diagnosed condition such as depression or anxiety, or a different stressor that comes with life as a college student, mental health challenges can affect any of us at any time,” Mohan, a senior studying molecular biology, told the regents.
The regents heard testimony from staff and students from across the UW System about the need for increased mental health services at all campuses. UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said at the meeting that the need to catch up on the services is not unique to Wisconsin.
“We are running behind in terms of number of counselors and that’s true across the country,” Blank said.
The UW–Madison task force, a collaborative effort that includes students, staff and faculty, will report by late May on strategies for fall 2019 implementation. Members will continue their work into the next academic year, with longer-term recommendations on new models and approaches.
One of the goals is to provide increased support for underrepresented students. Mohan, who is also a member of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor’s Cabinet of Student Leaders and the Health Care Advisory Committee of the Associated Students of Madison, said that lack of representation among counselors is a barrier for many students of color. But, she added, she has witnessed great efforts by UW–Madison to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health services.
“This has been nothing but positive for folks who are struggling with different mental health challenges — students are now much more likely to seek help when they need it,” Mohan said. “This also means that UHS needs to be able to grow to keep up with the increasing demand for services.”