GV joins nationwide push in implementing new mental health initiatives on campus


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

Student mental health is a major concern to college campuses nationwide.

According to a survey done by the American College Health Association, almost 73% of students reported experiencing moderate or serious psychological distress in 2021.

To help struggling students, the University Counseling Center at Grand Valley State University has taken mental health screening to the next level.

Counseling Center Associate Director and Director of Prevention and Community Education, Melissa Selby-Theut, said the university is beginning a large-scale mental health initiative.

“We were able to make four online, large-scale screening days for the entire campus community,” said Selby-Theut. “One of the most important things a community can do during or post-pandemic for mental health is large-scale mental health screening.”

Although the Counseling Center has always offered screening for students, staff and faculty, it has never been this extensive.

Selby-Theut said that GVSU is among the first in the country to install mental health screening kiosks on campus. One kiosk will be in the DeVos Center, while the other will be located in Kirkhof Center.

“Any student walking by can stop, take a quick mental health screening and get resources right at the tips of their fingers,” Selby-Theut said. “It’s completely anonymous and confidential and we’ll provide access to resources 24 hours a day.”

In addition to screening days and kiosks, there will also be 14 pieces of artwork spread across both campuses inviting students to take a screening. Through a collaboration with the mental health facilities and the art department, students can scan the QR code on the piece to find more information about getting a mental health screening. This is an option for students who may not have time for the kiosk or want privacy.

By implementing multiple ways to take a screening, the Counseling Center wants to make students more aware of mental health and the resources available to them.

“The purpose of the kiosks and artwork is two goals,” Selby-Theut said. “One, which is the most obvious, is that students can take a screening. But there is also a secondary purpose: even if the student isn’t struggling, we’re making it clear that the University Counseling Center cares about the student’s mental health.”

The improvements in mental health awareness resources at GVSU comes following similar action nationwide.

As of July 16, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that individuals may call in cases of mental health emergency changed to three numbers, 9-8-8, to make emergency support services more accessible.

Selby-Theut said the new number should make access to care much easier.

“This will be a way for students in particular, if our office is closed, to be able to easily access emergency services, in addition to the emergency services the university offers,” Selby-Theut said. “It kind of mimics 911 in some ways and it’s also easy to remember, so you don’t have to go online and Google.”

GVSU student Josie Hoffman said she thinks the new, shortened number is helpful for students seeking help.

“If you asked me the suicide hotline number before it changed, I wouldn’t know what to say,” Hoffman said. “Now, I’m glad it’s shorter to make it easier to remember.”

Many students like Hoffman have advocated for more mental health awareness on campus. After hearing about the new screening initiatives, she said it’s a win for students.

“Although I think there could be more done about students’ mental health at GV, I’m glad they’re doing this,” Hoffman said. “The pandemic was really hard for people, especially those who were already struggling, so it’s good that these kiosks and art will promote mental health awareness for students.”