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Improving Mental Health on College Campuses is a Priority for State Officials

STORRS – In the wake of a tragedy at UConn, students are talking about mental health on campus. An issue that affects students not only at Storrs but on c...

STORRS - In the wake of a tragedy at UConn, students are talking about mental health on campus. An issue that affects students not only at Storrs but on campuses across the country.

Mental health affects one in five young adults. Students at Storrs are asking for more help from the University.

"We are all deeply hoping that in the wake of the horrible tragedies that happened that something does come about," said Peter Fenteany, Associated Editor of The Daily Campus.

Tianyin Shang, 19, was pulled from Mirror Lake on Monday. The Chief State’s Medical Examiner ruled her death a suicide. It’s the second in just as many months on campus.

"It’s honestly so sad that this happened and honestly I can’t believe it," said Sophmore Coriana Farinella.

Students apart of the UConn school newspaper, The Daily Campus, wrote as recently as November about more funding to be allocated to the Counseling and Mental Health Services department

"They lack the funding to hire enough mental health professionals, enough resources and have enough diversity to capture the cultural and linguistic diversity on campus," said Fenteany.

UConn officials say that the mental health and well-being of their students is their top priority. They have seen an increase in student encounters with mental health services over the last four years. UConn exceeds the national average for the counselor to student ratios.

"College is an environment that is stressful all over the world. This hyper-competition, this isolation that is brought upon all of us as we prepare for the job search or whatever the next step of our lives is can make one feel cagey," said Fenteany.

Leaders at the state Capitol want to make mental health a priority in the upcoming legislative session. A task force has been assigned assess and implement best practices to improve mental health services for all college campuses in the state

"And then to make recommendations, quite honestly, for funding. Especially in public institutions, we rely on state funding to provide any kind of services we have," said the President of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Mark Ojakain.

While breaking the stigma surrounding mental health on college campuses.

"Many times students are reluctant to share their story or to even go to somebody with a concern about a mental health issue they might have," said Ojakian.

The National Alliance of Mental Health lists 10 common warning signs for young adults who may be experiencing mental health issues.

Feeling sad or withdrawn
Seriously trying or planning to harm oneself
Severe Risk-Taking Behavior
Sudden Overwhelming Fear for no reason
Significant weight change
Seeing, hearing or believing things that aren’t real
Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
Drastic Mood Swings or changes in sleeping habits
Difficulty concentrating
Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
For students who feel they may be struggling with mental health or for family and friends who feel a loved one is suffering, starting a conversation is an important step in finding support.

One can offer support by reminding a loved one that they are not alone.

More helpful information for support services can be found at nami.org or dial 2-1-1
Student Health and Wellness – Mental Health: Mental Health Services is available to provide support to the Storrs student community at this time of loss. Mental Health Services is located on the 4th floor of Arjona and their website lists information regarding their hours of service. Additionally on their website, you will find information on managing grief and loss.

· On Call: A Counselor-on-Call and crisis information is available to you, all day, every day. The Counselor on Call is available after hours by calling 860-486-4705.

· Residential Life: The Residential Life staff team are available 24/7 to support members of the University residential population in need of support. They can be contacted at 860-486-2926, or through the Resident Assistants on duty.

· Dean of Students: The Dean of Students Office located on the 2nd floor of Wilbur Cross is available to assist students struggling with the loss of their classmate. You may make an appointment by calling 860-486-3426 or stop in to meet with a staff member during business hours, Monday – Friday from 8:00am-5:00pm. Staff in the Dean of Students Office are available to help you connect with support services as needed.

· Student Care Team: If you are concerned about the well-being of a community member, call 911. If it is not an emergency please complete a referral for the Student Care team.