COGS asks for accessible mental health data and instructor responsibility

A resolution regarding graduate student mental health passed the Student Senate last week and now awaits administrative action.

Maraya King

A resolution written by graduate students at the University of Minnesota outlines the need for accessible data and clearer accountability.

Last Thursday, the University’s Council of Graduate Students passed a resolution in the Student Senate calling administration to make mental health data readily available to all students in an annual report.

The resolution outlines five areas to include in the proposed annual report: wait time for students seeking treatment, incidence prevalence of specified mental illnesses, statistics on suicide and crises, proportion of students referred to community care due to complex diagnoses or insurance limits and client-reported quality of service.

Gary Christenson, chief medical officer at Boynton Health, said 13 percent of students use mental health services provided by Boynton.

The resolution identified the mental health problem among students. “Regardless of the reason for the high level of student mental health concerns, one result is clear: student learning suffers from it,” according to the resolution.

COGS President Lauren Mitchell said there is a need for public documentation showing wait times for students seeking help as well as the ratio of counselors to students.

Christenson said there is currently one counselor for every 759 students — information that’s accessible only if a student asks for it.

The information COGS is requesting is already being tracked, he said, but Boynton only publicizes the data when raising awareness on a specific issue.

For example, the 2017 fiscal year saw a 28.6 percent increase in mental health visits compared to 2016, Christenson said. He added that this information is used to support requests for more staff.

A goal of the resolution is to add student mental health statistics to the University’s progress card — a document tracking important University-wide statistics — to ensure accountability, Mitchell said. 

Dave Golden, Boynton’s director of public health and communications, said he’s seen an increase in the number of students diagnosed with mental health conditions within the last 12 months. 

“Especially in specific conditions like depression, and particularly, anxiety,” Golden said. 

Boynton is researching whether there is an overall increase in the prevalence of mental health issues or less stigma around mental health that makes students more comfortable seeking treatment, Golden said.

COGS’ resolution has moved to University administration that will evaluate the recommendations in the coming months.