Anxiety, depression, and stress are impacting the academic performance of an increasing number of students, according to the results of the National College Health Assessment, a survey conducted on campus for a number of years. The LSU Student Health Center is responding to the need by increasing staffing, establishing new programs, creating additional entry points, and educating the campus community about levels of care. For the 2019-2020 academic year, the Student Health Center is implementing several new initiatives to support students’ emotional wellness, including Launch, a group targeting freshmen, MindWise, a mental health screening tool, and “Let’s Talk”, brief consultations with mental health professionals.
Mental Health Service Director, John Otzenberger, PsyD, and Interim Executive Director and Director of Operations, Julie Hupperich, MS, LDN, RD, have worked to establish and expand services that focus on mental health to support the Student Health Center mission to treat the “whole student”. “What sets college health apart from an urgent care clinic model is that we provide collaborative care that addresses all aspects of student wellness,” Hupperich noted. The Health Center is working to educate the campus community about “levels of care” and has partnered with academic colleges to do so. It is a way to ensure that students get the support they need in the most accessible way possible. There are options ranging from self-care and mindfulness to wellness coaching and individual counseling.
One new initiative is “Let’s Talk,” which offers brief, informal, and confidential consultation with a mental health professional. “Let’s Talk” sessions will occur on Mondays in the African American Cultural Center and on Thursdays in the College of Art and Design. Sessions are 15 minutes and will be available from 2 to 4 p.m. “Let’s Talk” will begin September 23 and continue for six weeks.
“’A student can drop by and speak to a therapist about anything for 15 minutes,” Otzenberger said. “Students can seek support, perspective, and assistance connecting with campus and community resources. ‘Let’s Talk’ is easy to access and completely confidential.”
If a face-to-face conversation is not for you, there is another option: “The Phone.” The Phone is a 24-hour hotline that you can call or text. You’ll be connected to a dedicated phone counselor who can provide support, resources, and referrals.
The Student Health Center also offers a number of groups each semester, including several open groups. They include a series of sessions to help manage stress, navigate relationships, and adjust to new situations. You do not have to schedule an appointment and can either come to the entire series or only the sessions that interest you.
The newest group, Launch, will meet each Thursday for four weeks, beginning September 12 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. It is offered to all first-year students and will focus on topics that are helpful to many as they begin their college careers, such as adjusting to college life, connecting with others, and balancing academic and social responsibilities.
Another example is Emotional Wisdom, an educational series that teaches practical skills for effective mood management. The sessions will take place on Wednesdays, starting August 28 from 3 to 4:15 p.m.
In addition to the full-time psychiatrist on staff, the Student Health Center recently hired two psychiatric nurse practitioners that provide additional support and help to bridge the gap between medical and mental health issues. Also, there is now a mental health therapist housed at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, who focuses on the unique needs of law students.
If you are not sure what level of care you or someone you care about may need, the Health Center has a mental health screening program, MindWise. The new, free service was implemented as a result of student feedback and is easily accessible on the Student Health Center website, www.lsu.edu/shc. Once the screening is completed, you will receive an assessment about your risk and suggestions for next steps.
The Student Health Center is listening to the concerns of students and responding to the increased demand by providing more access points and multiple levels of care.