Editor's Picks

Campus Life

New task force aims to expand mental health care for IU students

Feb. 8, 2017

When Lori Reesor became vice provost for student affairs at IU Bloomington in May 2016, she began meeting with students, faculty and staff to learn how her office and campus partners could best support IU students.

Lori Reesor

IU Bloomington Vice Provost for Student Affairs Lori Reesor. | PHOTO BY INDIANA UNIVERSITY

One of the common themes she heard was the need for expanded mental health care options for students, many of whom are living on their own or with roommates for the first time while figuring out how to juggle classes with internships, jobs and new responsibilities.

Reesor recommended to IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel that a group of students, faculty, staff and health professionals from the univesrity and the community review IU’s current efforts and provide recommendations for how to improve and/or increase mental health services.

Robel recently launched the Mental Health Task Force requesting a report with recommendations by the end of the spring semester.

“While there’s no easy solution to the challenges students face, this task force will provide recommendations that evaluate how we address the needs of our students,” Reesor said.

The task force will review the issues and propose a comprehensive, multi-faceted model for IU with an emphasis on prevention, early intervention and counseling services.

“We know that requests for counseling services continues to grow,” Robel said. “The Mental Health Task Force provides a crucial venue for students, faculty and staff to collaborate and consider what strategies might best meet these needs."

Pete Grogg, executive director of the IU Bloomington Health Center, said that from fiscal year 2011-12 to 2015-16, the number of patients at IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Program grew from 4,794 to 7,707 -- a 61 percent increase -- while total visits went from 16,190 to 21,207, an increase of 31 percent. During this same time period, there have been no increases in the health center's primary source of funding

The health center has responded anyway by increasing its staffing in CAPS, by adding embedded psychologists at the Jacobs School of Music and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. CAPS has also developed the Let’s Talk Program, which embeds formal and informal counseling resources in IU’s cultural centers and the Office of International Services. CAPS has also increased the diversity of its counseling team to include native Mandarin and Spanish speakers, and has hired a consultant psychologist who specializes in transgender concerns.

In the wake of the Jan. 27 presidential executive order imposing travel and immigration restrictions on people from certain countries, Robel has extended free CAPS sessions to all students from the seven affected countries.

IU senior Sara Zaheer, president of the IU Student Association, presented to the Trustees of Indiana University on the topic Nov. 30. She talked about the existing mental health services offered by IU and the student-led groups, such as Culture of Care and Crimson Corps. Student-led initiatives also include lobbying for increased federal funding for mental health services and wider promotion of existing resources.

“Mental health is such a big part of our overall well-being as students,” Zaheer said, adding that the historic stigma attached to mental illness is lifted when people talk more openly about their experiences. “We’re realizing that this need exists on our campus to take care of ourselves and our peers. We want to make sure that everyone has access to the skills and services that they need to do well at IU so that they can enjoy their time here and go on to lead great careers and contribute beyond campus in their careers and other endeavors.”

Jackie Daniels, director of IU’s OASIS program, said she’s excited about working alongside students on the task force. “We will discuss innovative approaches to promote the positive mental health of our students to ensure their academic and career success, and I look forward to expanding upon the great work CAPS, Culture of Care, and the entire IU community already does for our students,” Daniels said.

“For faculty, this task force will be an important opportunity for us to learn how we can better support our students to ensure they thrive here at IU,” said Jonathon Beckmeyer, assistant professor at the School of Public Health Bloomington.

Members of the task force are:

  • Maria Hamilton Abegunde, director of the Graduate Mentoring Center
  • Karen Allen, professor in the School of Social Work
  • Jonathon Beckmeyer, assistant professor in the School of Public Health-Bloomington
  • Jackie Daniels, director of OASIS
  • Deb Fabert, director of behavioral health at IU Health Bloomington Hospital
  • Blake Forland, graduate student, vice president of the Graduate and Professional Student Government
  • Pete Grogg, executive director, IU Health Center
  • Elizabeth Guertin, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, director of advising
  • Maggie Hopkins, undergraduate student, chair of CAPS Advisory Committee
  • Monica Johnson, director of th eNeal-Marshall Black Culture Center
  • Jane McLeod, Provost Professor of sociology
  • Atrayee Mukherjee, undergraduate student, co-director for Culture of Care
  • Bernice Pescosolido, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research
  • Lori Reesor, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students
  • Nancy Stockton, director of Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Sara Zaheer, undergraduate student, president of IU Student Association

The new task force aligns with priorities outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success.   

Read more Campus Life stories »