Student Government Touches on Mental Health in Memorandum

Author: Tessa Bangs

Student Government Touches on Mental Health in Memorandum

Once each semester, the heads of student government present a report on a topic of their choosing to the Board of Trustees in person. Reporting procedures include describing the problem, introducing research and recommending steps to be taken by various bodies.

Last year, the previous administration — led by Student Body President Lauren Vidal, Vice President Matt Devine and Chief of Staff Shannon Montague — focused on student stress and mental health for their two presentations. In a follow-up to their secondary report and its recommendations, and after a summer of research, conversations and data work, the current administration has issued a memorandum to the Board on the topic.

Focusing mainly on the two subjects of further analysis of designated “high risk groups” as well as the individual colleges’ responses to the mental health needs of their students, the memo published a series of additional recommendations, categorized within the groups of Climate and Procedures and accompanied by commitments on the part of student government itself.

In an effort to continue the conversation on the topic, as Student Body President Brian Ricketts says, this memorandum was recently sent to the Board, followed by opportunities to ask questions on the topic at the annual Fall Board Report presentation, which focuses on a separate topic area.

Within the memo itself, as Vice President Nidia Ruelas explains it, the “high-risk groups” researched — on top of international Asian students and First-Year students, which had already been identified in last year’s report as separate groups — were LGBTQ students, racial/ethnic minority students, students from backgrounds of high socioeconomic need, male students and non-Catholic students.

“We wanted to recognize specific groups and understand where they’re coming from — what can we do to better reach these groups,” Ruelas says.

As to the subject area of the individual colleges and their various approaches, the identification of students with mental health needs, how they are referred to various resources and the faculty education component were among the major topics studied.

From research and conversations on these two main topic areas, student government developed a series of recommendations. Within the Climate section of this subcategory, the recommendations were to define stigma reduction and to emphasize the role of community. Within the Procedures section, the recommendations were as follows: parental education, collegiate-targeted outreach, high-risk group targeted outreach, faculty education and college referral evaluation.

And on the part of commitments of student government itself, the body, having already achieved creation of the Department of Health and Wellness in April, commits to working further with colleges and various departments in the arena of stigma reduction and resource improvement; assist the development and promotion of the McWell Center (Rev. James E. McDonald, C.S.C. Center for Student Well-Being); participate in and guide the ACC-wide Just Ask campaign; pursue the creation of groups of peer wellness leaders; and continue dialogue with Student Affairs, colleges and, of course, students.