14:06 PM

Ohio State points to progress following suicide and mental health task force

The Ohio State University is highlighting progress made to date in implementing recommendations from the Suicide and Mental Health Task Force.

Task force co-chairs Javaune Adams-Gaston of Student Life and Eileen Ryan of Wexner Medical Center joined Undergraduate Student Government President Shamina Merchant at the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee meeting Thursday to update the board on the task force’s work.

Some of the early efforts include the addition of three new counselor positions in Counseling and Consultation Service this academic year. The Stress, Trauma and Resilience program at the Wexner Medical Center is working to have a case manager and counselor in the counseling center by spring.

In addition, the Wexner Medical Center is creating a new intensive behavioral health outpatient program for people age 18 to 25 and USG is launching a pilot program offering 1,000 students free subscriptions to a guided meditation app.

“You can see while we have a great deal of work to get done, we have made a significant amount of progress so far,” Merchant said. “I am personally really proud of the support that is coming for students as we advance that culture of care on campus.”

President Michael V. Drake commissioned the task force in response to important dialogue on campus that took place last spring about Ohio State’s suicide prevention efforts and mental health services. Adams-Gaston said the task force involved and was supported by faculty, students and staff to have the most impact.

Shamina Merchant, president, Undergraduate Student Government
You can see while we have a great deal of work to get done, we have made a significant amount of progress so far.
Shamina Merchant, president, Undergraduate Student Government

“One thing that was really important to us and to the president was that we have student engagement: undergraduate, graduate and professional,” said Adams-Gason, senior vice president for Student Life.

Both Adams-Gaston and Ryan, interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, highlighted statistics that show some of the challenges students face to be treated for mental health issues. Surveys find anxiety has eclipsed depression as the No. 1 issue that drives students to mental health services on campus.

“It’s also true that our students are under tremendous stress,” Adams-Gaston said.

All three recognized there is much work to be done to implement all of the task force recommendations. The task force report recommended continuing to build a “culture of care” on campus that finds ways to minimize psychological harm to students and encourages students, faculty and staff to look out for one another.

The report also calls for mental health and suicide screening protocols to be evaluated and used across the university to better guide students to appropriate services, and for enhancement of current counseling and support services.

Other recommendations included using apps or other digital resources to connect students to mental health services or support; promoting mental health services in a clear and concise way; and implementing a continuous review of the physical campus to identify vulnerabilities with respect to methods of suicide.

Clark Kellogg, chair of the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee, requested periodic updates as the task force recommendations continue to develop.

“It’s obviously a very important issue and I would just say we are moving in the right direction with some of the recommendations,” he said.

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.