College students are struggling with mental health at alarming rates: One recent survey showed that more than 60 percent of students nationwide met the criteria for at least one mental health condition, while another found that nearly three quarters reported moderate or severe psychological stress. The Rutgers University in Camden Student Wellness Center is expanding its response to this growing problem with funding from a $344,000 grant by the State of New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. This crucial support will enable Rutgers–Camden to expand its mental health services and make them more accessible to those who need them most.
The Student Wellness Center offers a free, year-round continuum of care for students to access either in person or via telehealth. Student Wellness Center Director Daniel Lee said a portion of the funds will build upon a large-scale outreach initiative in collaboration with the Office of Student Academic Success and Rutgers–Camden departments to further mental health education and awareness across campus.
“We are creating partnerships and looking at how we can promote behavioral health as much as possible across the campus, to make everybody more active in managing their mental health and supporting others,” Lee said.
The grant has supported the upcoming launch of a mental health video resource library, which will be available to faculty, staff, and students on the online platform Canvas. Counselors are working with Residence Life to better meet the needs of students in distress, with long-term plans to train on-call staff on providing emergency after-hours support to on-campus residents. Wellness Center staff have also collaborated with TRiO Student Support Services to offer wellness checks for incoming first-year students entering this year’s Summer Bridge Program.
The grant funding will also allow the Wellness Center to add more telehealth therapy sessions and begin scheduling appointments for evenings and weekends, when more students are available to see counselors. Lee hopes new lines of communication will cut through the noise and send crucial information directly to students.
One effect of the increased outreach? “We get a lot of referrals,” Lee said. “Students are referring their friends. People are starting to view it as a helpful, normative response. Most students come to treatment because this is the first time they have the ability to make the decision on their own. They say their parents or family wouldn’t let them go, but now they can do what they want. There’s a bright spot in that.”
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