Enhancing Resources for Mental Health and Student Well-being




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Dear RIT Students,

Thank you for the courage and openness you showed on Friday at our community gathering on mental health issues at RIT. As Senior Vice President Sandra Johnson expressed, the gathering provided an opportunity to listen to your personal experiences and to hear your ideas for improvement. I also have been reading and responding to your heartfelt emails and monitoring the petitions on PawPrints and Change.org. We take your concerns and suggestions for change very seriously.

In recent years, RIT has put additional resources into mental health services. Our current ratio of counselors to students is above average when compared to peer universities. In addition, beginning this year, health care providers in the Student Health Center can provide support for students needing psychotropic medications for mental health needs.

However, it is abundantly clear that these improvements are not enough. More is needed.

We heard from you that wait times for counselor appointments are too long. We heard that mental health needs to be an ongoing conversation, beginning with orientation and continuing throughout your time at RIT. We heard that there is need for more dialogue on mental health, and on a range of issues affecting the student body. Clearly, we can and must do better.

Accordingly, we will take the following action steps across the spectrum of services, education, outreach and support:

  • Increase the number of counselors in CaPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) to increase our staff-to-student ratios. And, as we do so, we will strive to hire more counselors with diverse backgrounds to better assist our underrepresented populations.
  • Monitor scheduling to ensure that the wait time for an appointment with a counselor will not exceed 10 business days. We expect that often the wait will be shorter.
  • Add an additional case manager to connect students to resources and services on and off campus.
  • Broaden flexibility of access to services of CaPS, including the addition of evening hours two days a week. And we will explore the creation of satellite locations in strategic locations across campus to provide counseling services, consultation and education related to mental health issues.
  • Develop a robust online resource that provides easily navigable information about programs and services, and we will investigate alternative modes of access.
  • Enhance messaging, education and resource awareness regarding mental health services and support through New Student Orientation, Year One programs and during peak stress times throughout the year.
  • Investigate and implement best practices for developing peer-led mental health education and support to empower students to change the perception about mental health on campus and to reduce stigma associated with seeking help.
  • Increase training and support opportunities for faculty and staff to identify and respond to students with mental health concerns, including procedures for making referrals.

I frequently meet with students and student groups by request or on an ad hoc basis. I will continue doing so, but also plan to begin holding scheduled, monthly “fireside chats” where any student can drop by and discuss any topic. My wife, Nancy, frequently will be joining me because she shares my strong interest in the health and well-being of our student body. Occasionally, I may ask others to join us. The times and locations of the fireside chats will be announced in the next few weeks.

As is true of all of the nation’s great universities, RIT is guided by a set of priorities. I am proud to say that our top priority is you, our students. We aim to provide you with the best education and support services available anywhere. We cannot promise to solve every problem. But I pledge to you that we will tackle the issue of mental health head-on, applying best practices and resources that are properly sized to the task.

Please know that you are never alone. You are part of the RIT family and we care about you deeply. We are here for you! As we move forward with implementation of the above enhancements, they will help pave the way for a more connected and healthy community.

Sincerely,

David Munson
President

Munson@RIT.edu