University recognized as healthy campus

Active Minds recognizes the U’s initiative of collaboration to elicit a healthier campus.

Melissa Steinken

The University of Minnesota has been recognized as one of the healthiest campuses nationwide. 
The University was among five other colleges and universities to receive the 2015 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award last week. The University was recognized for its prioritization of student well-being, its emphasis on collaborating to make student voices heard and a push for equal opportunity health access across campus.
“The University of Minnesota’s efforts are a model for campuses nationwide,” said Sara Abelson, vice president for Student Health and Wellness at Active Minds, in a
University press release. 
Cornell University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Texas at Austin and Western Washington University were the other institutions to receive the award, which was described as a new annual award by the group in a press release. 
Active Minds — a nonprofit that aims to increase awareness of mental health issues on college campuses — and a panel of reviewers evaluated the University across eight topics, including championing student voices, equal opportunities for health for all students and the use of data to focus efforts.
The Provost’s Committee on Student Mental Health at the University identified mental health as the most demanding issue on campus, said Victoria Blakeborough, the University’s Active Minds  president. 
She said the group’s main goals were to educate, reduce stigmas and increase knowledge about resources on mental health for students.
“There is kind of a culture of stress on college campuses,” Blakeborough said. “Sometimes students expect when they get to college to be stressed and irritated and overwhelmed and then don’t think they need to get help.”
The University’s Active Minds partners with University Counseling and Consulting Services, the Stamp Out Stigma Campaign, the Aurora Center for Advocacy and 
Education and the Provost’s Committee on Student Mental health, she said.
“Collaboration is important to teach people how to approach someone in distress and help them find the right resources,” said Gary Christenson, chief medical officer of Boynton Health Service.
Among the initiatives the University was praised for were the school’s expansion of coverage for its student health benefit plan to include transgender students, its one-year-old campus-wide tobacco ban, its weekly Pet Away Worry and Stress with therapy animals, the University’s 24-hour crisis line, a 24-hour text crisis counseling pilot program for first-year students and gender-neutral housing and bathrooms.
“It always takes new initiatives to make the campus better,” said Abdirahman Hassan, co-chair of the Student Health Advisory Committee. “It emphasizes that students should be listened to.”
Blakeborough said the University’s Active Minds group also works each year to increase communication on health accessibility across the school through methods like hosting forums for students to raise concerns about health issues.