IU launched a team in the fall of 2021 with three students and IU’s chief health officer Aaron Carroll to review how the university cares for the mental health of students. Now, the team has goals they hope three task forces will be able to implement by the fall 2022 semester.
After reviewing previous reports on mental health from IU, other schools and organizations, and speaking with IU’s current mental health service providers, Carroll and his team split the goals into three task forces.
“We don’t want to do more studies, we don’t need to do any more investigation,” he said. “We have a good sense of what we’d like to do and what we need to improve, we just need help and expert advice on how to do those things.”
The task forces cover all IU campuses, with one task force dedicated to culture and climate, another on services and support and the third on policies and protocols.
“We have some excellent stuff going on, but it’s very campus-specific,” Carroll said. “It is not terribly well-coordinated across all of IU.”
The culture and climate task force aims to help people recognize warning signs, destigmatize mental health on IU campuses and increase students’ awareness of mental health services, Carroll said.
The services and support task force will look at current mental health services, such as IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services program, to expand mental health services and make them more accessible, Carroll said.
He said the policies and protocols task force will look at implementing and reviewing policies to make it easier to care for students’ mental health. This task force plans to review policies over topics such as financial barriers, food security and housing security.
Carroll said the task forces will identify long-term and short-term solutions and track their progress throughout this semester. He said the goal is to continually improve how IU cares for students’ mental health.
“I don’t see this as a one-time fix that achieves perfection,” he said. “I see it as a solid first step that takes us closer to our goal.”
IU senior Julianne Akard was one of the students on the initial team in the fall that looked at reports and communicated with current mental health services.
The team included her, IU sophomore Madelyn Mustaine and a graduate student.
“We found that we have a pretty solid system in place,” Akard said. “But obviously there are things we want to shore up.”
She said a big challenge was investigating across different campuses because each campus has different students and needs.
Akard said one specific need they found for IU-Bloomington was improvement in mental health services for graduate students. Some mental health services were more geared towards undergraduate students, and some of the problems were due to lack of communication between IU mental health initiatives and graduate students.
“That was one of the things we focused on was making sure that especially on the messaging side that graduate students know what’s available to them,” Akard said.
The task forces will also look at increasing services for underrepresented populations such as international students and LGBTQ students, Mustaine said.
Mustaine said Carroll was inclusive and listened to her, Akard and the other student.
“Because we were working on student problems, he thought that students would be the best people to do the work,” Mustaine said. “That really helped us come up with a better final product.”