The University will soon begin to roll out new resources and
policies in response to findings announced by a mental health
taskforce yesterday.

This week — at the same time as the “Depression on
College Campuses” conference — the Mental Health Work
Group will unveil three new resources for students: a new website
under the University’s domain, a resource guide and a map of
campus mental health services.

The University created the work group in 2001 to examine its own
health system, after research was conducted in cites nationwide on
deficiencies in university counseling and a rising need for
services.

The group, representing such departments as the University
Health Service and Counseling and Psychological Services, recently
released a report of the University’s mental health services.
The report evaluates the administration’s strengths and
weaknesses and offers suggestions for improvement. The
administration implemented some recommendations earlier this
year.

The guides address one of the group’s recommendations,
that students be provided with central resources to ease access to
campus services. Currently, the vast, decentralized system may
hinder access, the report states. It also recommends that the
administration develop a 24-hour phone number where a student may
receive advice on navigating the system.

A review of the University’s psychological services showed
a complex network of departments and offices that group members
deemed confusing. A student receiving help at CAPS, for example,
could be referred to UHS, University Center for the Child and
Family, the Psychological Clinic or a host of other offices.

“We noted that we had a lot of difficulty understanding
this,” said UHS director Robert Winfield, who chaired the
work group.

Among its many recommendations, the group suggested that the
University improve communication between agencies, perhaps by
creating a referral form for students and standardizing the
referral process.

The group’s report also includes an evaluation of costs,
suggestions for faculty training and administrative policies for
students who need to be withdrawn from school. The issue of
stigmatization also figured prominently in the evaluation.

Although most of the University’s resources are free for
students, some must refer its clients to off-campus providers,
which often charge for their services. Numerous students without
insurance — and still more whose insurance does not cover
mental health services in the Ann Arbor area — are then faced
with a difficult situation, the group concluded.

“In 1999, approximately 5 to10 percent of undergraduate
students and 3 percent of graduate students (did) not have health
insurance,” the report states.

CAPS, intended for short-term counseling, generally limits its
sessions from eight to 10 sessions. This is sufficient for most
students, but those who require many more sessions are referred to
an off-campus provider.

“All University counseling centers struggle with
this,” CAPS Director Todd Sevig said of the problems involved
with providing care and dealing with a student’s financial
needs. CAPS’s mission remains to “see as many students
as want to be seen,” he added.

To rectify this problem, MHWG suggested including insurance
expenses in financial aid calculations, but only if insurance is
made a “condition for matriculation.” MHWG recommended
granting insurance for all students.

In January, the administration implemented its Health Withdrawal
and Readmission Policy and Procedures, a set of procedures and
formal rules for withdrawing a mentally disturbed student.

“There is now a formal policy by which that student can be
brought in, counseled, evaluated and if necessary withdrawn from
class, given guidelines as to what kind of help they need to
get,” Winfield said. Students will have “a proscribed,
systematic reevaluation when they’re ready to come
back,” he added.

The group’s report also stresses de-stigmatization. Often
times, MHWG contends, students do not seek help because if their
fear or shame. The group says this may occur in the international
community and or in certain student groups — one professor
reviewed issues of stigmatization in the Korean community, for
example.

The website, along with other public outreach mediums —
like a recent movie on depression circulated by Rackham School of
Graduate Studies — will help combat stigmatization, Winfield
said. He may also push for a themed semester on mental health.

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