10:48 AM

Ohio State engineer leads conference on mental health

A new conference at The Ohio State University focused attention on mental health research and services.

The Mental Health @ OSU Conference at Pfahl Hall featured faculty, staff and students discussing advances in technology and medicine as well as new services and support for the campus community.

The conference was led by Kevin Passino, professor of electrical and computer engineering. The idea to host the conference was inspired by the university’s Suicide and Mental Health Task Force.

President Michael V. Drake commissioned the task force last year to examine issues around student mental health. A final report recommended a renewed “culture of care” to minimize psychological harm to students and encourage students, faculty and staff to look out for one another.

Drake opened the conference, reminding attendees of their responsibility to each other.

“I think that our active -- eyes open, ears open, minds open -- consideration of the circumstances of our fellow Buckeyes, fellow citizens, fellow family members is the most important thing we can do to try to make sure that we have ways to connect people who need support to the support they need,” he said.

Passino said the point of the conference was to foster collaboration between psychologists, medical experts, social workers, engineers and beyond, to pave a path forward in prevention and recovery at the university.

“I thought it was important to try to bring faculty into the process better,” he said.

More than a dozen speakers from different academic backgrounds spoke at the event. Presentations from the Office of Student Life, the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Research addressed current student services for mental health care, research programs at Ohio State and safety tools available to students, faculty and staff.

Passino said it might seem unusual for an engineer to take on the issue of mental health, but he said the more he looked at the issue, the more it made sense.

“There are a lot of things in the field that are very natural for an engineer to study using the ideas, methods, analysis and tools that we use as a standard in engineering,” he said.

Passino said student interest in the conference and his research surrounding mental health has been eye-opening. University surveys find anxiety has eclipsed depression as the No. 1 issue driving students to seek mental health services on campus.

“It’s interesting. This is a very unusual field. The student interest in this is huge,” he said. “I mean I’ve never had a field of my research where students have been more interested. They want to help out, they want to jump in and help out and try to solve these problems.”

Passino has not determined if the conference will be an annual event. He said it would depend on feedback about the conference and funding.

For help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255/TALK (or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish speakers). To reach someone at Ohio’s 24/7 Crisis Text Line, send 4HOPE to 741741. 

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