CSG mental health task force hosts first town hall
The Central Student Government Mental Health Climate and Resources Task Force hosted a town hall Wednesday night to share with the University of Michigan community the findings from three surveys that were administered this past fall. The task force — created by an executive order signed by CSG President David Schafer, an LSA senior, last fall — presented to 50 attendees prospective improvements to mental health resources and current campus climate.
The survey results found that 91.3 percent of the 1000 students who voluntarily responded to the survey have dealt with a mental health concern on campus. Although a small portion of the student population responded to the survey and the results cannot be generalized to the entire student population, at the event, LSA junior Jen Semaan expressed her surprise at the figure. Semaan also stressed how important the town hall was to the destigmatization of mental health resources.
“I think that mental health is really important,” she said. “People, especially at a prestigious university, should know about it, and it needs to be destigmatized. I feel almost relieved walking out of here and knowing that people are looking into mental health, and are listening. It’s nice to know that someone is taking your concerns and taking them higher.”
To gain information and ideas for potential recommendations and policies, organizers asked students to voice their concerns and suggestions in small groups to further discuss ideas. Task force co-chair Yumi Taguchi, an LSA senior, explained how the setup of the event was important in furthering the discussion of mental health issues.
“Both the surveys and the town hall are so important for this discussion,” Taguchi said. “We hear a lot of different stories about resources and the climate on campus, but this format lets us record it in a quantitative way in order for us to present it to administration, to actually make a difference.”
Data from the resource innovation survey reported 90.3 percent of students are aware of Counseling and Psychological Services, but many students in the breakout groups pressed for more targeted campaigns to boost awareness. LSA sophomore Sujay Shetty, president of the Residence Halls Association, noted students living in dorms — particularly incoming freshmen — would benefit from an increase of awareness.
“Many students living in residence halls are freshmen,” he said. “Freshman year comes with a lot of transitional stressors. They are a population that needs a push in knowing what’s there for them.”
The task force reported most students understand resources available on campus, but still encounter significant barriers to utilize them. Respondents cited negative experiences with CAPS, anxiety about making appointments, accessibility and a fear of stigma from other students.
CAPS has focused recent efforts on equipping faculty and staff with diagnostic tools to field student mental health concerns, but the surveys revealed a lingering divide in the classroom. Eighty-seven percent of faculty respondents felt comfortable discussing and/or providing mental health accommodations for students, yet 68 percent of students felt comfortable approaching professors about mental health accommodations.
Task force members wore and handed out T-shirts with semicolons printed on them. The shirts are the outcome of a CSG resolution that allocated money for their production, representing Project Semicolon, which was created for individuals who were going through struggles with mental illness and whose story could have stopped moving forward, but did not.
Schafer lauded task force members for organizing he called “crucial” for organizing crucial University policies about mental health.
“These policies will normalize mental illness and expand student access to invaluable resources and strengthen the mental health climate in classrooms,” he said.