The Collegian
Monday, November 29, 2021

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Campus-wide survey aims to understand student mental health and well-being

The University of Richmond is participating in a nationwide survey on campus designed to better understand student mental health and well-being. 

Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Peter LeViness leads the Healthy Minds Study, which is designed specifically for colleges and universities, for UR. 

“Mental health is just like physical health,” he said. “It's paying huge dividends right now, but there's not enough.” 

The survey, which asks about diagnoses and treatments of mental illnesses, includes several screening measures that are not diagnostic but are suggestive, he said. If people score high on these measures, it would be worthwhile to receive a professional evaluation for what they may be suffering from, he said. 

“[The survey] would tell you there are certain flags,” he said. “Like, if you score high on thinking of harming yourself, it would tell you, ‘Hey, please reach out to these offices,’ and it would customize it for UR.” 

The Healthy Minds Study, conducted by the University of Michigan, releases an annual national report that looks at the participating 50 to 60 schools and evaluates nationwide trends, he said. 

UR will receive data from the University of Michigan and separate the data into subgroups such as Westhampton and Richmond College students, he said. 

“One of the questions would be, ‘Are there any subgroups that are being left behind?’” he said. 

A higher percentage of people with disorders are willing to access care for their mental health than at any time in the past, he said. Nationally, about 50-60% of adults with a diagnosable disorder have received care over the past 12 months; LeViness said when he was in school, it was closer to 20%. 

“I think the biggest driver of the demand for counseling services across all colleges and universities is not an epidemic of disorders, but it's the reduction of stigma,” he said.

CAPS has seen a higher percentage of the student body use its services than most colleges in Virginia, he said. LeViness does not attribute that to UR having a higher population of students with mental health issues, he said.  

“Every time we get a new counselor, their schedule fills, and it feels like a black hole to some folks,” he said. “I don't think that's what's going on so that's why I'm trying to get data. I think if you have the services available, a greater percentage of people that need it, will access it. And there is a finite limit.” 

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The Healthy Minds Study is not just for those receiving treatment from CAPS, Sherry Ceperich, CAPS psychologist, said. All undergraduate students received an initial email with the survey on Sept. 13, as well as three subsequent emails to participate. 

“In general, I think the uncertainties and isolation brought on by the pandemic in the years since the last administration of the survey have brought mental health even more into the public eye,” she said. “And my hope is that people are increasingly comfortable with seeking help and encouraging others to seek help when needed.” 

UR has participated in this survey five times previously, initially in 2009, and subsequently in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018. Both the survey this year and in 2018 are part of The Jed Foundation campus program, LeViness said. 

“We want everybody to tell us their story so we have a better sense of what the needs are for the campus as a whole,” he said. 

Contact news co-editor Ryan Hudgins at ryan.hudgins@richmond.edu 

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