Groups rally for mental health collab.

Governing bodies and campus groups want to work together on a mental health task force.

by Brian Edwards

Two University of Minnesota governing bodies may soon team up to battle mental health issues on campus.
The Faculty Consultative Committee, Minnesota Student Association and the Council of Graduate Students met last month to kick-start discussions leaders say they hope will culminate in a joint-effort mental health task force. 
Joelle Stangler, MSA president, said decentralized resources around campus make mental health concerns tough to tackle.
“It’s a broader community issue,” she said. “We need to put together a more cohesive strategy.”
Because mental health is a multifaceted issue that affects members of campus in different ways, she said, a task force comprised of multiple groups would provide a necessary range of voices on the topic.
Stangler said the University community has previously benefited from such concerted collaboration — like when a comprehensive committee undertook improving student advising.
Faculty members also expressed interest at the meeting.
“I always believe it is better to have more minds on a topic,” said LaDora Thompson, a faculty member in the program of physical therapy.
She said because mental health issues affect people in every part of the University, it’s crucial that the task force be able to engage with faculty and staff just as well as with graduate and undergraduate students.
Sue Wick, a professor in the College of Biological Sciences, echoed that sentiment at the meeting, saying a diverse school requires diverse problem-solving.
Jean Wyman, a professor in the School of Nursing, said at the meeting that creative solutions could ease problems related to understaffed mental health facilities.
Medical students could do clinical placements at places like Boynton Health Services, she said at the meeting, which would both train staff and expand resources for students seeking help.
Thompson said that together, faculty and student groups can help vet different possible courses of action for pressing issues including Boynton staffing and campus education.
Scott Lanyon, professor and head of the department of ecology, evolution and behavior and FCC member, said a task force could be a long-term solution.
He said the group will also work to formally draft a statement calling on the school to drastically reduce waiting times for mental health services.
“It surprised all of us to learn what those wait times are like,” Lanyon said. “It can be a problem for all students.” 
Stangler said she hopes to form the task force by the end of the semester so that her successors can continue the push after taking office.