Prevention is key.
With that mindset, the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services is looking to reach a broader population of students.
This fall, CAPS is kicking off Leaders at their Best, an initiative that aims to wield positive psychology to reinforce students’ strengths and prevent mental health crises.
CAPS launched Leaders at their Best on Friday with a three-hour workshop in the Michigan Union. The event featured six stations, each one introducing a different element of positive psychology — creativity, mindful movement, gratitude, mindfulness, resilience and self-compassion. Positive psychology employs these techniques, among others, to cope with anxiety and increase quality of life.
Christine Asidao, CAPS associate director of community engagement and outreach, said the goal is to reach students with a wide variety of mental health concerns.
“Leaders at their Best is really about increasing resiliency, wellness and wellbeing across the U of M campus and specifically focused on our students,” she said. “We see students who are coming in in a lot of distress, and we want to help those students, but we also want to help those students who might also be doing pretty well but just sometimes forget because finals are coming up, things are getting really busy, time seems to be going really quickly.”
Over the next several weeks, CAPS will host a series of workshops dedicated to the various elements of positive psychology.
“If you can highlight what people’s strengths are, have people really be attuned to what’s going on in the moment, say through mindfulness, it can really improve a person’s overall sense of wellbeing,” Asidao said.
At a meeting last spring, Asidao initiated a conversation about positive psychology with CAPS’s community outreach group. From that discussion, Leaders at their Best was born.
LSA senior Micalah Webster, a member of the CAPS student advisory board, said part of the initiative’s goal is to teach students skills they can implement in their daily lives.
“Things that people could really learn, skills they could walk away with and that they could keep doing afterwards, something that could just get people excited and have a really nice break.”
Asidao said student feedback from events held over the next few weeks will determine what is next for the initiative. According to her, feedback from various student groups has been positive thus far.
Webster, an organizational studies major, said one of her classes is conducting a research project that will measure the efficacy of the Leaders at their Best campaign. The project began by sending out a pre-survey asking students what forms of positive psychology they already practice. This survey, which roughly 300 students responded to, will be used as a baseline. After the preliminary group of Leaders at their Best events conclude, the class plans to follow up with students from the pre-survey to see how their positive psychology practices have changed.
“We’re really just looking at how this all is functioning just so in the future we can make sure that we’re constantly putting forth the best and most effective campaigns that are evidence-based,” she said.
Asidao is hoping the initiative has an impact on students’ daily lives. She said prevention is an element of student mental health that often falls by the wayside on college campuses. By promoting preventative techniques, CAPS is hoping to address mental health issues before they become crises.
“To really think about prevention as an actual way of intervening with our students is a big deal,” Asidao said. “What we’re trying to do is give tools to students before problems get too big.”