University plans to launch mental health and well-being website

The Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs will soon consolidate current on-campus resources for mental health and well-being in an “attractive, student-friendly, updated” website, according to University administrators.

According to Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Sally Dickson, who served as co-director of the Mental Health and Well-Being Advisory Board that recommended the website initiative, the website will be the first comprehensive hub of mental health and well-being information at the University. Dickson noted that the website became a priority after the advisory board’s members concluded that the current system of vastly distributed services was hard to navigate.

“In such a decentralized environment, it’s very hard to identify what are all the resources around campus that address mental health and well-being,” Dickson said.

In response to increased awareness about mental health issues, the University has also pushed to increase the number of qualified information sources. Ron Albucher, director of Stanford’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and director of the advisory board, said that this “safety net” of more trained staff in different areas of campus life was built so that students could feel that “any person is the right person to talk to about mental health issues.”

However, Albucher said that ensuring accessibility to that network of sources remains the priority.

“We realized that [the safety net] didn’t work as well when somebody is trying to look on their own and they want to see what’s available on campus,” he said.

The advisory board also found that students may not use that safety net effectively, instead typically first seeking help from community centers and residential staff, like resident assistants, peer health advisors and resident fellows.

“The question for us is, ‘How can we make sure that whoever is the first contact with the student…knows where to go for more help?’” Dickson said.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman emphasized that the website should offer a solution. He noted that the site is expected to launch sometime in the fall of the 2014-15 academic year.

“It’s still surprising to me that there are students who will say, ‘I didn’t even know we had counseling or psychological services,’” Boardman said. “Part of that is how we communicate.”

As part of its recommendation to develop a mental health and well-being website, the board also suggested that its debut feature effective outreach measures, with suggestions ranging from simply designing an identifiable logo to linking the website to Axess or the main Stanford website.

Given the breadth of issues that that students might face, from alcohol abuse to anxiety, Dickson acknowledged that the board might adhere to a “gap analysis,” in which it would identify areas that are in need of attention.

“Issues will change over time,” Albucher said. “There could be new challenges or new problems that come up, and the role of the advisory board is to try and pick up on that early in the process and make recommendations.”

Contact Vanessa Ochavillo at vochavillo@stanford.edu.

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