The University of South Carolina’s Student Health Services will receive more than $300,000 in grant funds over the next three years as a recipient of a Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to enrich the overall mental health climate on campus.
Through a project called “Together We Can,” USC intends to impact the mental health culture on campus. The grant funds will support initiatives to decrease mental health stigma and barriers to care for target populations by increasing access to mental health and substance use services and resources. “Together We Can” will create a more nuanced and skillful campus safety net for the highest risk populations, which will affect the overall campus mental health climate.
Education, outreach and training will target five campus populations: student veterans, LGBTQ students, students of color, students with low economic resources and students displaying high-risk behavior like binge drinking.
Student Health Services aims to impact the mental health culture on campus by combating negative beliefs about mental and behavioral health disorders for campus populations found to be at-risk for increased suicidal ideation and/or decreased help-seeking behavior.
“Whenever we can reach out to people who may not come forward as easily to seek services, it benefits the entire community,” said Warrenetta Mann, director of Counseling & Psychiatry.
According to the 2017 National College Health Assessment administered at USC to students, within a 12-month period, 10 percent of students seriously considered suicide at some point, 6 percent intentionally caused harm to themselves and 1.3 percent attempted suicide. A major message of “Together We Can” is that there are many routes to mental health and substance use resources at USC to serve every student, as well as a campus community rich with members who have the knowledge and skills to refer students to appropriate care.
“Students and their families should be encouraged that Student Health Services and its outstanding, forward-thinking staff who applied for this grant have anticipated students’ needs and intend to address a wide range of concerns,” said Dr. Dennis Pruitt, USC’s vice president for student affairs and vice provost. “With support from SAMHSA, we’ll be able to enhance programs, services and interventions in the hope that no student will be invisible, and every student will get the help they might need at the time they might need it.”
UofSC the only South Carolina college or university to receive national healthy campus award
The University of South Carolina is the only college or university in South Carolina - and only one of seven in the nation - to win the Active Minds Healthy Campus Award. Recognizing the healthiest college campuses in the U.S., the award celebrates institutions that demonstrate excellence in prioritizing and promoting the health and well-being of their students.
“At the University of South Carolina, we care about creating a culture of wellness where students, faculty and staff are able to live, learn, work and play,” said Harris Pastides, UofSC president. “This is only possible when the individual, environment and the community unite to create a culture and atmosphere that encourages healthy behaviors.”
Students enrolled at schools that focus on campus health often find that the programs and services offered there are life-changing.
Terry Doan, a senior public health major, benefited from the university’s counseling services after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. “It is essentially through working with this service and meeting my counselor, now turned mentor, that I was able to continue at USC, and thrive,” said Terry. “I honestly believe that utilizing USC’s counseling saved my life. The experience has made me more resilient, more self-confident and given me the necessary skills to take care of myself in times of duress.”
The Healthy Campus Award, now in its third year, involves an extensive application process as well as multiple endorsements and interviews. Each applicant is assessed across eight criteria, with winners chosen by a panel of prominent researchers and health and higher education experts.
“University of South Carolina stands out because it invests in students’ physical and mental health on a comprehensive scale and for the long term,” said Alison Malmon, executive director and founder of Active Minds, the national nonprofit that presents the Healthy Campus Award as part of its commitment to student wellness. “USC is a model of what’s possible when a college prioritizes a holistic approach to student success through a campus culture of health, resiliency and well-being.”
UofSC joins six other colleges and universities in receiving the Healthy Campus Award: University of South Florida, Arizona State University, Duke University, Jefferson Community College, Kent State University and University of Oregon.This year’s recipients represent a range of campuses – from rural community colleges to major research universities – that operate within widely different contexts and challenges. Together they demonstrate how institutions of all types and sizes can create healthy communities that allow every student the opportunity to thrive and succeed.
UofSC enrolls roughly 34,000 students in courses within 324 unique degree programs. Of the student population, approximately 62 percent are residents of South Carolina, and an estimated 4.5 percent are international students. The state of South Carolina falls within the top 10 unhealthiest states for overall health, while 88 percent of UofSC’s students consider their personal health to be good or better. The well-being of all students is a priority for the university and it shows.
The review panel for the Healthy Campus Award cited the following innovative practices in particular:
Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH): As an accredited PCMH, Student Health Services uses a dedicated care-team model that promotes the patient/provider relationship, as well as the continuity, comprehensiveness, quality and accessibility of care. Services have broadened to include expanded hours, online services, and use of the PHQ-9 screening in the medical clinics for students who may be in the pre-contemplative or contemplative stages of seeking mental health services.
Student Leadership Activism: UofSC’s Student Government established initiatives including Gamecock Pantry and Carolina Closet to support students of limited resources, Stigma-Free UofSC week to promote seeking mental health help and Gamecock REACH, a peer listening program to support mental and emotional well-being.
Resources for Marginalized Populations Students partnered with the Division of Student Affairs and Academic Support to develop initiatives, resources, organizations and programs for underrepresented populations, including Blackspace, Student Veteran Association, Gamecock Recovery, Trans Student Alliance and the regional Student Leadership and Diversity Conference.
Policy and Systems Change: The campus’ Mental Health Council has successfully advocated for a centralized academic withdrawal policy to aid students needing to withdraw for physical and mental health reasons. They have collaborated on postvention procedures for campus tragedies and will soon conduct an environmental scan to reduce lethal means on campus.
The Healthy Campus Award is made possible through the generous support of Peg’s Foundation.
About the Healthy Campus Award
The Active Minds Healthy Campus Award recognizes higher education institutions that provide access to quality healthcare and take a comprehensive approach to promoting and protecting both the physical and mental health of students. The award criteria align with best practice frameworks in the field, and the esteemed panel of reviewers includes representatives from Active Minds, American College Health Association, Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, Bringing Theory to Practice, Healthy Minds Network, McLean Hospital’s College Mental Health Program, NASPA, NIRSA, National Campus Leadership Council, National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities, National Institutes of Mental Health, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and The Steve Fund.
About Active Minds
Active Minds is the nation’s premier nonprofit for supporting the mental health awareness and education for students. Through award-winning programs and services, Active Minds is empowering a new generation to change the conversation about mental health. Active Minds is dedicated to saving lives and to building stronger families and communities. Our signature programs include the Send Silence Packing® exhibit, the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, the Healthy Campus Award, and a vibrant network of campus chapters located at more than 450 colleges, universities and high schools nationwide.