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Counseling Center begins study of mental health services at SU
Counseling Center begins study of mental health services at SU February 27, 2006Matthew R. Snydermrsnyder@syr.edu
The Syracuse University Counseling Center recently launched a survey project designed to gauge the SU community’s awareness of student mental health issues and of services that are provided by the University. A pair of anonymous, confidential surveys — one for students and one for faculty and staff — are being distributed to a random sample of more than 3,000 students and all SU faculty and staff via e-mail. Students who participate will be entered into a raffle for a free iPod.
The surveys are one outcome of SU’s recent receipt of a $225,000 Campus Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which will be used to implement and assess programs that address the increasing stress and mental health problems facing college students. The Counseling Center plans to administer a follow-up study in three years, at the completion of the grant, to determine which SAMHSA-supported activities are of greatest benefit to students.
“We know from student feedback that our clinicians are of great help to the individual students we see, but college counseling services in general have not tended to have a clear picture of how we fit into the overall wellness picture,” says Rebecca Dayton, director of the Counseling Center. “As we see national studies showing that 10 percent of students consider suicide every year, and that 50 percent report being overwhelmed to the point of affecting their academic success, we find ourselves uniquely positioned to study how effectively we reach out to students who need our help.”
At SU, the information-gathering process will focus on assessing campus-wide awareness and utilization of the Counseling Center and its services, determininghow much the SU community knows about mental health issues, and identifying barriers to seeking mental health services. “Results of this survey will indicate the extent to which SU students experiencing these difficulties seek Counseling Center services and will allow us to develop more effective strategies for assisting these students,” says Dayton. “We will use this information to more effectively meet the needs of students, faculty and staff with regard to both prevention and intervention.”
SU is one of 22 institutions nationwide to receive the Campus Suicide Prevention Grant in 2005; $75,000 per year is the maximum award. SU is using the funds to adapt and evaluate the effectiveness of prevention/intervention programs and also to develop innovative mental health wellness programming aimed at the general student population. This programming will include enhanced training for staff and faculty who might respond to students in crisis, as well as new means by which students can deal with intense emotions and stress, as exemplified by the Counseling Center’s introduction of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to the SU community. MBSR, developed and extensively studied by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, emphasizes mindfulness as a method for students to tolerate stress and manage unsettling emotions in a healthy way.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation’s substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment and mental health services delivery system.
For more information on the Counseling Center, its programming or the SAMHSA grant,visit http://counselingcenter.syr.edu.