After conducting three campus-wide surveys and analyzing the results, the Central Student Government Mental Health Taskforce released its 2017 official report and comprehensive summary of its findings.
The task force was commissioned in November of 2016 by LSA senior David Schafer, then-president of CSG, and consisted of three co-chairs and a board of 16 members. Two of the surveys the task force released measured opinions on mental health in regard to classroom climate, while one focused on understanding campus-wide opinions on mental health resources.
More than 1,000 students responded to the surveys. The task force reported a majority of stress- and mental health-related issues came from academic stress, anxiety and depression.
The results, which include feedback from students and faculty across all schools and colleges at the University of Michigan, found that while students are aware of the mental health resources available to them on campus, not all students find the resources easily accessible.
In an example given by the research, some students responded the long wait time for appointments and the limited hours at CAPS contributed to their inability to utilize these on-campus resources. Students living on North Campus also responded they feel it is much more difficult for them to seek mental health assistance, as they do not have equal access to the resources on Central Campus.
When it came to analyzing input from faculty, the results found that while faculty did vary on opinion and experience, just over half of the faculty members responded they felt fully or moderately informed about the mental health resources available to students on campus.
One of the most conclusive results from the surveys found 96 percent of student respondents feel there is an importance for mental health to be accommodated on a college campus, yet 74 percent feel uncomfortable addressing their mental health concerns with faculty. According to LSA senior Yumi Taguchi, co-director of Active Minds and a co-leader of the task force, these were some of the most striking results.
“We weren’t really sure what we were going to find before we sent out those surveys, but two things we thought were very interesting was both faculty and students really support the idea that a college campus should create a supportive environment for mental illness, and also there was a striking difference between faculty and students when it came to comfortability when asking for accommodations,” she said. “Faculty were pretty comfortable handling any accommodation requests whereas students felt very uncomfortable.”
Following the results, the task force created 13 recommendations it hopes will be established next year. According to Business junior Grace Nasr, chair of CSG’s Health and Safety Commission and a co-leader of the task force, the recommendations will be sent to administrators and stakeholders on campus.
Of these recommendations, there are five the task force feels can be implemented within one year, including implementing a Wellness Zone on North Campus. Six recommendations can be accomplished within one to three years, such as increasing the number of CAPS counselors. Two could possibly be accomplished in three or more years, such as establishing faculty training on mental health issues among students.
The task force will continue its work next year to further establish these policies.
“The goal of the task force next year will be to help implement the program and policy recommendations that are improved by administrators,” Nasr said.
The purpose of these town halls, which were open to the entire University community, was to share the survey results as well as gather information from audience members regarding their thoughts on the results and their recommendations for potential programs and policies.
While the task force acknowledges the University is privileged to have the resources it does to address mental health, it hopes its work will help to make these resources accessible for everyone on campus in order to ensure adequate mental health remains a priority for students, faculty and administrators.
“We never want mental health to become something that goes in the back burner,” Taguchi said. “Mental health is always something that is important, everyone will always have it and it will affect their experiences here as a student, as a faculty member, a professor.”
LSA freshman Matt Henning said he feels publishing these results is a good first step in addressing mental health on campus, and he hopes the University will continue to improve upon its resources.
“If these numbers and these facts don’t get published and don’t get out, then these problems will still happen, but we just won’t know about them,” he said. “Putting the data out there, I think, is the first step to actually making any sort of change.”