Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Mental Health recognition expands on campus

<ast Tuesday’s Learning and Teaching Center (LTC) Lunch, called “Perfectionistic Culture at Carleton: What is it costing us, and how can we improve?”, every seat was filled. Attendees lined the walls of the room, pulling chairs from outside or simply sitting on the floor.

Between brief lectures on perfectionism by Nate Page, Counseling Psychologist at SHAC, students, faculty and staff discussed how to recognize perfectionism on campus and what individuals can do to combat it at Carleton.
The lunch was the latest manifestation of a growing institutional emphasis on mental health in recent years, a change welcomed by both students and staff. The student-run Mental Health Awareness Collective (MHAC), along with Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) and the Office of Health Promotion (OHP) have begun a number of initiatives recently to promote discussion of mental health at Carleton.

Mental health “kind of flies under the radar,” said Lauren Kempton ’18, one of MHAC’s leaders. MHAC was just recently revived after a brief dormancy of sorts, and has begun to double down on dismantling the stigma associated with speaking about mental health, partnering this year with a national organization called Bring Change to Mind (BC2M).

Founded by actress and advocate Glenn Close, BC2M works to diminish the stigma associated with mental health nationally. Recently, the organization enacted a pilot program at Indiana University which MHAC will be adapting for Carleton.

“They’ve given us a bunch of materials and ideas for events, and things that have worked on their campus, and we’re going to… see what works and what doesn’t work,” said Kempton. “This partnership is definitely a new direction from what the club has been in the past, because before it was just really confined to Carleton,” she added. Kempton believes that this partnership will “give [MHAC] a lot of strength. And we have support to lean on, and ideas and materials, and sort of a fresh perspective.”

SHAC has also been implementing new programs recently, expanding its counseling offerings. With the addition of Nate Page to the SHAC staff last year, group therapy sessions were added to SHAC’s offerings.
“We hired somebody very specifically who really wanted to do groups, [who] had that mentality,” said Marit Lysne, Director of SHAC. The increase in demand for counseling has “outpaced our ability to meet that need just through individual counseling,” she added.

 “We’ve had to, over the last many years, be much more creative,” implementing both proven methods and also experimenting to an extent to provide care to as many students as possible. SHAC  also plans to expand psychiatric medicine management, with increased hours beginning in January.

Changes in staffing and administrative organization have also allowed Carleton to implement more mental health programming, overseen by the Office of Health Promotion.

The Jed Foundation Campus Program, which began last year, helps campuses throughout the nation address “mental health, suicide prevention and substance use comprehensively across campus,” said Janet Lewis Muth, Director of OHP. In addition to working closely with partner campuses, the Jed Foundation affords campuses the opportunity to try the Healthy Minds survey, which was conducted last year at Carleton.

“One of the things that’s really unique about Healthy Minds is that it has some scales embedded in it. So we’re able to look at data for students who met the criteria for anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm who may not have ever had a diagnosis,” said Muth. In contrast, the University of Minnesota’s College Student Health survey that Carleton previously used only provided information on students who had previously been diagnosed.

“Not everybody who is experiencing symptoms seeks out treatment,” said Muth. “It’s nice for us to know what that difference is, the differential between students who are experiencing symptoms but aren’t actually seeking help, because…it helps us understand, ‘how much work do we need to do around stigma reduction, around making sure that students understand what the various options are for seeking treatment?’”

Survey results will be publicly released shortly by Institutional Research, and the survey will be repeated in two years.

This type of information is especially critical this year, with Carleton being granted the highly competitive, federally funded Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Suicide Prevention Grant. The GLS grant provides institutions with close to $100,000 each year for three years, all of which must be used for prevention and proactive education.
“Money from the grant cannot be used to fund direct service clinicians,” said Lysne. Instead, part of the grant will go to funding a full-time position.

“The position will be in the Office of Health Promotion. But their primarily goal will be to coordinate the activities” of all the offices and staff involved with the grant, said Muth.

“Specifically, the grant is really looking at a couple of major objectives: stigma reduction around mental health, really thinking about basic education to the broad campus community,” said Muth.

 “What does good mental health look like, help-seeking… making sure that students know that help-seeking is an option, and what the resources are. But then also [making sure] that family and alumni and others support the notion of help-seeking” to reduce stigma outside of campus as well.

“We’ll be looking at creating more opportunities for training students, staff and faculty around what is known as gatekeeper training, so really making sure that we all as a campus community can recognize signs and symptoms that somebody might be struggling.”

 Muth also mentioned expanding some promotion programs such as Happy Hour, a ten-session course that teaches skills based in positive psychology.

These initiatives, however recent their implementation, have been in the works for years. “I worry a little bit about people thinking we’re only being reactive to some of the tragedies that have happened,” said Lysne. “I have looked at that [GLS grant] for so many years…I had been looking prior to try and start the Jed campus piece, and timing just worked really well” with Muth’s arrival at Carleton.

“But…we couldn’t take on the grant until we got somebody in [Muth’s] role, who is really great at grant writing and able to have this vision of being able to have an office that can be dedicated to doing this kind of work. So it really does speak to when you’ve got the right office in place and the right staffing in place, all these other things could be unlocked,” said Lysne.

“It is a monumental task to be responsible for responding to students who are experiencing any kind of illness, and also be responsible for prevention and promotion at the same time,” said Muth. “For and one entity to have to do both was too much––is too much in itself.”

However, that is not to say that there will not be communication between SHAC and the OHP. Both Lysne and Muth hope to collaborate with the CSA’s mental health working group, as well as with MHAC, the SWAs, and other offices which are not conventionally linked to mental health programming like OIIL, the GSC and TRIO.
The Office of Health Promotion is working “towards having a higher representation than the demographics would say,” said Muth of groups that are more marginalized in terms of mental health access.

“For example, if we say that we’ve got 25% of the population that identify as other than heterosexual, we want to see higher than 25% participation in certain activities of our non-heterosexual population.”

“What that means is we have to be really intentional in how we do outreach, how we craft messages,” said Muth. “A big part of the initial work is creating a sort of student advisory group specifically who can help craft, create, shape messaging” to reach populations on campus that have not traditionally been reached. “That is an intentional goal,” she added.

 Although college campuses are the main battlefield of mental health acceptance, there is a focus across the nation. “This rising mental health challenge is absolutely nationwide,” said Lysne.

 “The governor [of Minnesota]  put together a task force last year that was focused on responding to mental illness issues and a rising need. And then there was this task force that the Minnesota Department of Health was running, looking at what is the role of public health in promoting mental well-being at the community level.
“It’s not specific to Carleton. Not in any way, shape or form.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *