Western Carolina University among recipients of behavioral health need grants

Press release from the University of North Carolina:

CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina System Office has awarded $981,181 in grant funding to 12 UNC System institutions to increase behavioral health capacity and strengthen mental health resources available to students starting this fall.

Provided with funding from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, the grants are designed to give universities the ability to make immediate investments in services, staff and programming to reach more students.

Students’ pre-existing mental health challenges have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The Healthy Minds Survey, which polled 33,000 students at 36 U.S. colleges in fall 2020, showed increases in reported rates of depression among students during the pandemic, with 47 percent of students having clinically significant symptoms of depression or anxiety.

“These grants should help campuses scale up their mental health services to meet the real and growing needs of students,” said Peter Hans, president of the UNC System. “We must do all we can to support our students who have faced added stress during the pandemic. Mental health wellness is a high priority for our universities, and a key part of helping students reach their academic goals.”

Enhanced mental health and wellness services are essential to fostering student success, particularly as institutions strive to holistically build a healthy, nurturing and supportive environment for students.

Universities are using the grant funds in innovative ways. For example, University of North Carolina at Pembroke is creating a counselor-in-residence program. A full-time counselor will live in the residence halls and provide counseling services there. University of North Carolina at Charlotte is using the funding for a clinical health psychology training clinic, and Fayetteville State University will provide mental health services to adult learners.

North Carolina Central University will partner with mental health professionals with expertise in trauma, family therapy, eating disorders and other areas. North Carolina State University will coordinate Mental Health First Aid sessions with groups on campus, promote mental health services and create health resiliency programs. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the grant will be used to develop student peer supporters and enhanced web resources.

The grant awards are the latest effort by the UNC System to provide additional support services for students across the state.

In August, the System announced a $1 million initiative to provide Mental Health First Aid training for faculty, staff, students and campus police, with the goal of reaching 10,000 people at UNC System campuses, private universities and community colleges. Mental Health First Aid refers to the initial support offered to someone struggling with a mental health challenge or substance use issue. The training is designed to help participants recognize the signs of an emerging issue and provide early support to students or colleagues. Classes are under way now in both instructor training and a basic course.

Last fall, the System provided students at its 17 institutions access to a crisis hotline, a resource for students who need professional care after hours. The call service has been used by about 300 students a month.

The University of North Carolina System enrolls more than 244,000 students at 17 campuses, including the state’s 16 public universities and the nation’s first public residential high school for academically gifted students. The UNC System is among the strongest and most diverse higher education systems in the country, with over $1.5 billion in research expenditures and universities that serve every region of the state. Affiliate organizations include UNC Health and PBS North Carolina, with its 12-station broadcast network.


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