Mendenhall: Better Promotion Can Make Mental Health Resources at the U Effective


Storey McDonald

(Graphic by Storey McDonald | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Addison Mendenhall


Mental health has lost a lot of its stigma in the last few years. Partly, because many individuals are experiencing mental health crises from COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, young adults have experienced increased symptoms of anxiety and depression disorders due to financial strain and university closure. Mental health resources are available to reduce the stressors on college-aged students. Although they have been around since before the pandemic, these campus-provided resources are highly underutilized. Now, more than ever, we need to be taking action to highlight the different resources that are available for students. Students are not taking advantage of mental health resources as much as they should be, and this may be due to University of Utah’s lack of promotion.

Mental health resources aim to improve students’ mental wellbeing. Many students’ mental health hit an all-time low due to the lack of socialization and normalcy that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. These resources have become more accessible due to the pandemic by moving to a largely online format. Students can take advantage of the Counseling Center, Center for Student Wellness and the Mindfulness Center, just to name a few. However, many university students are not aware of these resources. This is a huge problem that can lead to life-changing consequences. Mental support programs are not designed to sit idly on a shelf. They are designed to provide aid and save lives. Although we have a campus that greatly cares about our mental wellbeing, we must consider how the U advertises these resources, and if it is effective.

The U has a strong social media presence. There are several different Instagram pages, each for various organizations on campus. Typically only high-profile events, like a YouTube forum with Bill Nye, are given attention. While this isn’t a bad thing, it can overshadow these lesser-known groups advocating for the resources they offer. These groups rely on those higher up with more popularity and followers to inform people of their causes.

The U just put out a new Instagram post on Feb. 17 about a short film contest whose topic is “#healingoutloud”. This involves speaking up for mental health but has received some backlash. There are several comments that express the need for mental health services to be more accessible to students prior to starting the mental health conversation university-wide. The next post that mentions a mental health resource that students have access to is 53 posts down on the U’s main Instagram page. The posts that support mental health resource groups are few and far between.

Additionally, there is no “highlight” of compiled resources to be found on this main Instagram page either. As a student, I typically only see mental health-related services advertised during finals week. Seeing as how 71% of adults between 18 and 29 use Instagram, I would expect the U to use this channel to reach their students. The U needs to promote these lesser-known resources that provide invaluable services. Whether it be through shifting the focus of their main account or simply adding a weekly message, their lack of promotion needs to change.

The U has several diverse mental health resources for students. Eleanor Asma, a Center for Student Wellness coach, compiled a list of these different resources, both on and off-campus. Some of these are national hotlines, hospitals offering crisis counseling, and other options like apps and support groups. In an interview, Asma outlined the process of completing an online mental health screening. This is a university-based, anonymous service that is simple and easy. If you don’t know where to start, you can begin with what’s known as a wide-range screen. This, according to Asma, is one of the best resources offered on campus.

Asma walked me through how to utilize the mental health screening, which while in-depth, was easy for those to fill out during any kind of crisis. Asma said, “Go through that questionnaire or even … call the Counseling Center and ask them, what do you think I should do? I’ve been struggling with A, B, C and D. What do you think would be the best plan of action?” For university students both off and on campus, it’s as simple as answering a few questions that are directly related to how you’re feeling, with suggestions for help included at the end. Asma mentions that unless you’re directly looking for these resources, you’re not going to find exactly what you need right away. Which makes it crucial that we advocate for change.

The U has a plethora of mental health support groups that just simply need more exposure and awareness. Current advertising for mental health resources is not enough. Talking about the issues that affect us can influence the changes we want to see. Bringing awareness to this problem and how it affects the campus community is the first step in being able to make any change at all. By establishing that there is a problem that we want solved, we can guarantee that future generations of students will have greater access to these greatly needed resources.


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