LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 22, 2019) — University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and Provost David Blackwell today announced a taskforce to assess mental health counseling and services related to student well-being on the UK campus.
The taskforce — chaired by College of Public Health Dean Donna Arnett and Margaret Pisacano, who directs risk management at UK HealthCare — will work quickly to assess the current range of support services provided to students and make recommendations.
Further, Capilouto and Blackwell said, the taskforce will remain in place over the long term to gather feedback on campus and throughout the country and continue to provide input to senior administrators about these critical issues.
The committee, which is being finalized, will be composed of faculty and others from across the campus with expertise in mental health and issues of well-being, including representatives from psychology, social work, health communications and other disciplines.
“We must abandon tired stereotypes about mental health. We will instead make clear that seeking professional assistance in a time of crisis is a sign of strength and self-awareness; and not a sign of weakness,” Capilouto said. “We will discuss openly and candidly the sources of anxiety, sadness, and fear in our midst. We will efficiently and effectively respond to despair with hope; to confusion with clarity; and to loneliness with connection. And we will discuss how we best equip each other with the tools to respond to setback with resilience.”
Blackwell reiterated the ongoing nature of the taskforce, citing the need to continually assess, gather feedback and provide input on what is happening nationally and at UK.
“We must be vigilant, and this group of experts will be a sounding board, listening to what is happening here on campus and throughout the country,” Blackwell said. “This issue involves that which is most precious to us — our students and people throughout our campus community. We must be dedicated as a community to helping and healing, listening and responding, and moving forward together.”
The announcement about the creation of the taskforce followed an in-depth discussion among senior administrators and board members about the issues surrounding mental health and well-being among students at UK.
Data that Capilouto and Blackwell shared with board members demonstrated that rates of suicide, depression, anxiety and other mental health and well-being issues largely track trends at other universities.
Moreover, the data underscored the national scope of the challenge related to these issues, with much higher rates of suicide being reported by older adults, particularly males, as well as high rates of anxiety and depression.
“We are able to lead and to support our students, when we have information and a commitment to transparent dialogue,” said Britt Brockman, chair of the UK Board of Trustees. “The dialogue today around the issue of mental health and well-being among our students and the UK family underscores our commitment to everyone in this special community. We are so appreciative, as a board, that there is a strong desire on the part of everyone at UK to address the issues and challenges we have as we work toward our aspiration of being a community of belonging.”
“This is what the spirit of community insists that we do. Every one among us is too precious to abandon each to their own devices,” Capilouto said. “We will face this challenge together. We will start by taking advantage of the deep bench of expertise on our campus to assess and affirm what works and evaluate and consider where more resources and different strategies may be needed.”
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