Professional News

UK HR Partners With College of Social Work, Latino Affinity Group to Expand Mental Health Offerings

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 25, 2021) — The last year has taken a major toll on the nation’s mental health. With social unrest at an all-time high and a global pandemic causing major disruptions, it is nearly impossible to find someone whose life has not been impacted.

Human Resources at the University of Kentucky believes that mental health is a top priority. Ensuring all employees have access to mental health resources, UK HR provides five free therapy appointments with a certified or licensed therapist annually. Whether a concern has suddenly come up or existing challenges have become too much, appointments offer empathy, understanding and assistance in figuring out what’s next. 

“We know employees are only at their best when their health and well-being are a priority,” said Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Kim Wilson. “To successfully serve all those who rely on us, we want our employees to have the resources they need to take care of their well-being.”

To that end, earlier this year, UK HR partnered with the College of Social Work (COSW) to ensure that not only employees have access to mental health resources, but that they also have access to diverse mental health resources. 

According to American Psychological Association’s Center for Workforce Studies, 86% of psychologists are white, and other mental health professions are similarly homogeneous. Addressing these statistics and staying true to the university’s mission of promoting diversity, inclusion and human well-being, UK HR and the COSW contracted two African American licensed therapists. 

This month, to further diversify its offerings, UK HR has again partnered with the COSW and the UK Latino Affinity Group to welcome its first bilingual Spanish-speaking therapist.

“Latino faculty and staff at UK believe it is essential to have access to a counselor and health services offered in their native language. Often, it is difficult to translate a feeling or emotion into English, and on a few occasions, there is no direct translation,” said Elizabeth Harris-Medina, assistant director of Retention and Campus Engagement and a member of the Latino Affinity Group. “Having a bilingual counselor offered to faculty and staff at UK will provide more accessibility to our services and help with the overall mental health of our community. UK HR is an amazing resource that a lot of our employees utilize, and I am excited that the program is expanding to cater to more people’s needs.”

“This is one step forward on listening to our community’s needs, and one step closer to fulfilling our commitment to our faculty and staff,” said Ruth González Jiménez, Latino student community specialist and staff chair of the Latino Affinity Group. “While we have yet to add more languages and counselors to serve in other widely spoken languages, such as Portuguese or Arabic, we are excited to see how else UK can work toward an equitable and holistic Work+Life environment, particularly for our identity-based affinity groups.”

As we as a nation and as a university community continue to diversify, it is imperative that our resources reflect that same diversity, fulfilling our duty to be the University for Kentucky. 

Ensuring the mental well-being of university employees is a collective effort — an effort that benefits employees while on campus and in their everyday lives.   

“Employees bring their whole selves to work. We all face challenges with managing both our work and personal responsibilities,” Wilson said. “When we're struggling in one area, it can affect all parts of our lives. We want employees to thrive in all aspects of who they are — we can help them do that by offering mental health therapists from diverse backgrounds who can provide them with unique empathy and support.”

In addition to meeting with a therapist to improve mental health, UK employees can also attend virtual self-care or well-being events. Upcoming events focus on mindful self-compassion, community connection, support for working parents and elder care support. A full calendar of upcoming events can be viewed here.

Employees with a full-time equivalency (FTE) or 0.5 or greater are eligible for the five free sessions, as are UK retirees, sponsored dependents or spouses. Counseling sessions are currently available by phone or online video meeting. Click here to request an appointment with a therapist of your choice. 

For more information about mental health services and events for UK employees, please contact worklife@uky.edu.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.