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Grant Provides New Opportunities for Counseling Services

By Ben Jipson
UWRF University Communications

NOV. 3, 2006--The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently awarded UW-River Falls with a $10,000 program startup grant as a part of its Bringing Theory to Practice Project at colleges and universities across the country. According to the AACU's Web site, the project aims to explore and promote how engaged forms of learning requiring active student involvement and reflection contribute to the resiliency and health of students.

In order to secure the program startup grant, two UWRF staff members had applied for a $2,500 mini-grant. Terry Brown, dean of CAS, and Alice Reilly-Myklebust, director of Student Health Services and Counseling Services, coauthored a proposal for the mini-grant, which was offered last fall through the AACU .

Also included with the mini grant was a $2,000 institutional enhancement grant, which was used to purchase copies of a book coauthored by Harvard Univeristy Professor Richard Kadison, called "College of the Overwhelmed: The Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It." The books were used in addition to the $2,500 mini-grant to run two discussion groups that talked about students' mental health issues and were facilitated by UWRF psychology Professor Brad Caskey. Groups included students, faculty, staff, community members, public health officials and police officers.

Some of the mini-grant was also used to host Professor Kadison, who is chief of Mental Health Services at Harvard University, on the UWRF campus last January. Kadison used the topics covered in the discussion groups as a springboard to address members of the UWRF community about the effects of mental health issues on college students and possible ways to remedy the problems.

Based on what came out of the discussion groups and Kadison's visit, Reilly-Myklebust, licensed counselor Jennifer Elesesser and licensed independent clinical social worker Gretchen Link established a list of goals and objectives to write a proposal for the startup grant.

One of the leading areas of concern is that faculty and staff members sometimes feel the need to help students or advisees with possible mental health problems, but they do not know how to approach students or help solve the issue. Using information from faculty, staff, students and other colleges, the UWRF Counseling Services published a brochure entitled "Assisting Students During Emotional Distress: A Guide for Faculty and Staff."

Counseling Services is also working with the individual college deans to distribute copies of the brochure to faculty and staff members, and it is also available in the Counseling Services office.

Brown, Elesesser, Link and Reilly-Myklebust had a few opportunities to present material at the North Central College Health Association conference in South Dakota, the Minnesota College Personnel Association conference in Minneapolis, and AACU's annual conference in Washington, D.C. Among the conferences' attendees were faculty members and administrators from other campuses across the nation.

"A lot of campuses are really looking at trying to address some of these issues," Reilly-Myklebust said.

Other goals and outlined in the grant's objectives include: revamping and maintaining the Student Health Services and Counseling Services Web site, hiring student interns for peer counseling, contracting professional psychiatric services and marketing and advertising the benefits of overall wellness and counseling services more effectively. According to Reilly-Myklebust, educating students about mental health issues is important because these issues are very misunderstood.

According to the UWRF faculty and staff involved in the project, this is the last opportunity UWRF will have to apply for grant money through the AACU's Bringing Theory to Practice Project, but these grants have helped Student Health Services and Counseling Services improve counseling education and treatment that will benefit students for years to come.

On a national scale, says Reilly-Myklebust, the number of UWRF students reporting feelings of helplessness, depression and anxiety is comparable to national averages, according to a study administered by the campus student health and counseling services last year.

"[The data] really show that our students, like others across the country, are struggling with mental health issues," said Reilly-Myklebust. Furthermore, the number of students in therapy or on medications to treat depression and other conditions is increasing, and the UWRF campus needs to be prepared to help students, she says.  


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:07:44 Central Daylight Time


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