Approved by the:

Administrative Response:
Student Senate May 5, 2016

PENDING

Resolution Concerning Student Mental Health Planning : University Senate : University of Minnesota

The Student Senate recommends that the President establish a comprehensive system-wide planning strategy for establishing and then achieving student mental health goals at present and in the future.

The Student Senate further recommends that the Provost and the Chancellor of each University of Minnesota system campus formulate a campus-specific action plan for meeting student mental health goals at present and in the future.

Furthermore, the Student Senate requests that the President and the Office of the Budget provide additional sources of funding for mental health services and evaluate alternative funding models for sustained support.

The Student Senate also requests that the Board of Regents commission the development of an annual report on student mental health risks, trends, and service outcomes.

COMMENT:

Mental health concerns are a pervasive, national problem. Approximately one-third of college students have been diagnosed with a mental health condition (Eisenberg, Hunt, & Speer, 2013), and the prevalence of mental illnesses has been steadily increasing (Watkins, Hung, & Eisenberg, 2011; Storrie, Ahern, & Tuckett, 2010).

These trends pose a serious concern for the University because mental health problems interfere with academic performance. Over half of Minnesota students report that mental health concerns have negatively affected their academics (Boynton Health Service, 2013). Mental health concerns are a leading cause for delayed degree completion and dropping out (Eisenberg, Golberstein, & Hunt, 2009; Hunt, Eisenberg, & Kilbourne, 2010). As students are a fundamental part of the University's research, teaching, and service activities, poor student mental health prevents the University from fulfilling its educational and academic mission.

Mental illnesses can be effectively treated with therapy and medication, but access to University mental health services is limited by overloaded service points. In Fall 2015, at Boynton Health Service on the Twin Cities campus, the waitlist reached 72 students. In Spring 2016, 57 students were on the waitlist for more than 11 days before an appointment was scheduled and 28 students dropped after being on the waitlist for one month. (Boynton Health Service, 2016) On all University of Minnesota campuses except Crookston, student demand often cannot be met in a timely fashion due to insufficient staffing. (Report of the Student Representatives to Regents, 2016)

On the Twin Cities campus, the Office of the Provost has provided temporary funding to immediately hire new counselors, and with the Office of Student Affairs has acted to plan and implement immediate service improvements. At the same time, the Provost's Committee on Student Mental Health, in close collaboration with Boynton Health Services and Student Counseling Services has released a White Paper making recommendations to meet the most pressing needs and to begin a process of in medium-term planning. While these measures are encouraging and extraordinarily valuable to students in need, by themselves they are not enough to address the growing needs of students. "To maintain the status quo would be a willful disservice to student health" (Report of the Student Representatives to the Board of Regents, 2016).

Top-level strategy has been lacking on this issue, and that has severely hampered progress. The problems at stake are complex, large scale, and will require solutions that are coordinated, carefully planned, and draw on the best available expertise. Lower level administration is not empowered in the ways that are necessary to adequately address these problems. Advisory bodies are unclear on their roles in making decisions on mental health. The result is that there is no office, body, or individual that has taken responsibility for setting overall strategy on mental health that also has the power to exercise this responsibility, whether on the system or campus level.

If we are to expect sustainable, long-term changes of the magnitude that are necessary, we need to start making large scale, long range plans, and there also have to be structures to hold ourselves accountable for outcomes. The requests and recommendations, based in the recommendations of the 2015-16 Report of the Student Representatives to the Board of Regents, ask the university to establish the institutions that will plan and institute a real strategy to serve student needs in mental health treatment and promotion.

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