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Addressing Student Mental Health Concerns Comprehensively in Community

Health, Safety, and Well-being Student Success Supporting the Profession AVP or "Number Two" Senior Level VP for Student Affairs
December 15, 2023 Calvin Phillips University of Minnesota

Student Health continues to be a top concern among senior leaders, students, staff, faculty and parents. At the Association of Land Grant Universities (APLU) Mental Health Summit last year, one of their recommended best practices was to create an institutional task force, which we have created at the University of Minnesota. It is a system-wide task force called the President’s Initiative on Student Mental Health (PRISMH) and is being led by a faculty member and our senior vice president for student affairs.

The task force includes undergraduate students, graduate and doctoral students, faculty, and staff from across our system campuses. We decided to have an application process and received almost 250 applications, confirming how important this issue is to our institution.

PRISMH is currently in year three and by the end of this fiscal year, it will be moved under the Office for Student Affairs where we can continue the foundational work that has happened the first three years of the task force.

PRISMH formed four workgroups focused on faculty, research, services and treatment, and communication. Below is a list of initiatives that have occurred or are underway within each of the workgroups.

Faculty Workgroup

Our reaccreditation project for the Higher Learning Commission initiative is to engage instructors and academic leaders on the development and implementation of interventions to mitigate course and academic-related stress in the learning environment.

Research Workgroup

PRISMH and the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain partnered to offer a seed grant program focused on investigating upstream causes, antecedents, and risk factors for mental health problems.

Services and Treatment Workgroup

Developed training modules for faculty and staff on Responding to Student Suicidality, Disability Accommodations/Universal Design Training for Faculty, and Making Effective Referrals. We are in the process of developing seven more training modules that will be from 4-10 minutes each and will be a suite of trainings on how to respond to students with mental health issues.

We have had a Mental Health Advocates Program in existence since 2016, which is a professional development training for faculty and staff. The program was initially developed for the Twin Cities campus, but we are now expanding it to our Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester campuses.

Communications Workgroup

PRISMH has outlined an approach to launch a Student Mental Health and Wellbeing resource to our MyU portal, which is the tool students need to use for day-to-day management for registration, fees, and official notices from the University. This will be an easily accessible, one-stop place for students, staff, and faculty to identify student mental health resources on all of our campuses.

PRISMH has been supported at the highest level of our institution, including annual presentations to our Board of Regents during May, which is Mental Health Awareness month. It’s been refreshing to have buy-in from the top down, and of course, we have had students involved each step of the way. 


Calvin Phillips headshot image

Calvin Phillips serves as the vice president for student affairs and dean of students at the University of Minnesota and is a member of the NASPA James E. Scott Academy Board.