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Running head: EMERGING ISSUE 1

The Emerging and Growing Issue of Mental Health on College Campuses

Christina A. Suarez

Seattle University

SDAD 5750-02

Dr. Yamamura

Date Due: 9/13/19


The Emerging and Growing Issue of Mental Health on College Campuses

Mental health is on the rise on college campuses and institutions are adapting

resources, services and practices in order to address this growing issue (Benson-Tilsen &

Cheskis-Gold, 2017). It is important to recognize that mental health and wellness services

are crucial to supporting and caring for the whole person (Benson-Tilsen & Cheskis-

Gold, 2017). This commitment to care can promote student success and the development

of students. Throughout this paper, inclusive excellence, mental health and wellness, and

on-campus mental health services will be further explored to understand the role they

play in college student success and development. Additionally, this paper will dive into

personal reflections, lessons learned as well as areas of growth as a future practitioner.

Integration & Synthesis

Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive excellence can be defined as an institution’s effort to enhance diversity

and representation in all aspects of the campus community. Institutions may demonstrate

inclusive excellence through implementation of diverse curriculum, pedagogies,

resources and services offered on campus. Additionally, inclusive excellence can be seen

through diversity and representation within student, faculty and staff demographics.

When discussing student success, the core concepts typically discusses are academic

achievement, professional and personal development, as well as retention and degree

completion. Academic success and student development can be enhanced through

inclusive excellence. Diverse perspectives and voices are brought to the table when

stakeholders, decision makers and institutional leaders hold a variety of identities and

cultural backgrounds. Through representation and inclusion of diverse perspectives,


programs and initiatives can be developed to create equitable opportunities for students to

get engaged and involved (Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh & Whitt, 2010).

Creating an environment where students have equitable opportunities to get

involved can increase their success on campus (Astin, 1984). Additionally, an institution

who lives out the values of diversity, inclusion and representation can promote a positive

campus climate and foster a sense of belonging for students. When students feel as

though they belong on campus, they are more likely to be successful during their time in

college (Strayhorn, 2016). Since many institutions strive to promote retention and degree

completion, they must be committed to continually analyzing and assessing how their

curriculum, programs, practices and policies influence students’ success (Kuh et al.,

2010). Through assessment, institutions can gauge if services, forms of support and class

content are meeting the diverse needs of their student body (Kuh et al., 2015).

Emerging Challenges

When using student success as a framework throughout site-visits this summer, it

became evident that an emerging challenge on campus was student mental health and

access of mental health services. Dr. Dianne Avelar, Psychological Counselor at Cabrillo

College in Aptos, California, stated some factors such as food and housing insecurity,

mental health stigma, substance abuse and trauma impact student wellness and mental

health (D. Avelar, personal communication, July 30, 2019). Additionally, credits taken

per semester, socio-economic status and balancing personal responsibilities like a job,

can impact students’ mental health (D. Avelar, personal communication, July 30, 2019).

Additionally, Dr. Michelle Donohue-Mendoza stated that the campus climate and

political rhetoric impacts student wellness (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal


communication, July 30, 2019). However, the factors impacting student mental health at

Cabrillo College’s satellite campus in Watsonville, California differed.

The two campuses differences in factors contributing to mental health can be

directly influenced by the surrounding communities’ demographics. Cabrillo College is a

Hispanic Serving Institution with much of the student population identifying as being part

of the Latinx community. Some students attending the campus in Aptos report feeling

“unsafe and unwelcomed” on campus because the surrounding community is

predominately white. However, students who attend the campus in Watsonville campus

feel as though the campus is more “welcoming” and “inviting” because the Watsonville

area has a greater population of people who identify as Latinx (M. Donohue-Mendoza,

personal communication, July 30, 2019).

Additionally, focus group data collected at Cabrillo College in Aptos, indicated

that African American students felt there was a lack of representation of staff and faculty

on campus (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal communication, July 30, 2019). In addition,

Robin West, the Follow up and Retention Coordinator, stated a large population of

Native American students on campus feel “invisible” and report experiencing

microaggressions often (R. West, personal communication, July 30, 2019). Also, many

undocumented students on the Aptos campus feel unsafe due to the political rhetoric and

surrounding community demographics (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal communication,

July 30, 2019).

Drawing from the concept of inclusive excellence, it appears that the Aptos

campus’ emerging challenge of mental health is directly impacted by many factors

surrounding campus climate, microaggressions and the political rhetoric. Students


reporting a lack of diversity and representation in staff and faculty can contribute to

students feeling “unwelcomed” and “unsafe” on campus. These factors as well as stigma

surrounding mental health, basic needs security, substance abuse, dimensions of wellness

and balance of class and outside responsibilities can impact student’s holistic

development on campus. For example, many students at the Cabrillo College Aptos

campus, who are placed on academic probation, disclose that they are experiencing

mental health concerns. Additionally, in the past few years Cabrillo College has also seen

a significant drop in enrollment of students by spring semester, which is believed to be

partly due to students feeling overwhelmed and not being connected to resources and

forms of support on campus (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal communication, July 30,


Throughout my site-visits, it became evident that minority students accessed

mental health resources less often. There are many factors influencing utilization of

resources such as mental health stigma, culture, as well as a lack of or insufficient care

that is culturally representative (B. Arao, personal communication, July 26, 2019). As

stated by Allie Dahlberg, the Associate Director of Student Welfare at Santa Clara

University (SCU), some students use substances to self-medicate as an alternative

because counseling may not be an accepted practice within a students’ culture (A.

Dahlberg, personal communication, August 8, 2019). Factors influencing mental health

and the utilization of mental health services can impact student success in many ways.

At Cabrillo College, LGBTQ+, African American, and Native American do not

access the counseling center resources as frequently as other students (D. Avelar,

personal communication, July 30, 2019). At the University of California, Santa Cruz

(UCSC), Dr. Brian Arao, Dean of Students and Chief of Staff, stated students who

identify as Asian and Pacific Islander, transgender or gender non-binary, are less likely to

access mental health services (B. Arao, personal communication, July 26, 2019).

Similarly, Maryjan Murphy, Senior Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological

Services (CAPS) at UCSC, stated African American students, first-generation and

undocumented students are less likely to access mental health services on campus (M.

Murphy, personal communication, August 9, 2019). It appears that more research and

assessment must be done in order to further understand why minority students are less

likely to access mental health resources and services offered.

Literature on Mental Health, Wellness and Student Success

Mental health is on the rise and continues to grow on college campuses. In 2008,

approximately 95% of counseling centers on campus reported an increased number of

mental health concerns and cases on campus (Byrd & Mckinney, 2012). Many campuses

today report an increase in mental health services due to the rise of mental health cases

(Byrd & Mckinney, 2012). Approximately 31% of colleges within the United States

report that students experience current mild depression (Kenney, Diguiseppi, Meisel,

Balestrieri, & Barnett, 2018). Similarly, 27% of college students currently report having a

form of anxiety (Kenney et al., 2018).

Additionally, the Association for University and College Counseling Center

Directors survey reported that between 2015-2016 the most common mental health

concerns were anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, suicide ideation, self-injury as

well as substance abuse (Benson-Tilsen & Cheskis-Gold, 2017). An additional factor

impacting mental health is the level of stress students experience. Students who are

experiencing higher levels of stress in college are at greater risk of depression, anxiety,

and suicide (Byrd & Mckinney, 2012). Additionally, the college environment can impact

students’ mental health due to academic pressure, social isolation, and the effects of

transitioning to a new environment (Hartley, 2011). Students’ mental health and

persistence to degree completion is also influenced by their perception on whether they

feel a sense of belonging on campus (Hartley, 2011).

Similarly, research reveals that the campus climate impacts students’ mental

health (Byrd & Mckinney, 2012). In some cases, an institution can serve as a constant

stressor impacting the physical and psychological well-being of college students,

especially minority students (Byrd & Mckinney, 2012). However, in order to navigate

these spaces, minority students, such as students of color, develop cultural capital, wealth

and knowledge to navigate through oppressive systems and structures within higher

education (Yosso, 2005). Additionally, students coping abilities and spiritual identities

can positively impact students’ mental health on a college campus (Byrd & Mckinney,

2012). However, often times students do not reach out for additional support or help from

mental health services to process through what they are experiencing (Eisenberg, Hunt,

Speer & Zivin, 2011).

Specifically, minority students access services at lower rates (Eisenberg et al.,

2011). There are clear differences in help seeking behaviors between student populations

(Eisenberg et al., 2011). For example, white students are more likely to seek out mental

health services than people who identify as Asian, Latinx or Black (Eisenberg et al.,

2011). This information is important to note because mental health can impact students’

success (Eisenberg et al., 2011). Lower levels of treatment for mental health concerns can

lead to the possibility of lower retention and graduation rates of these student populations

(Eisenberg et al., 2011). Additionally, lack of treatment can likely lead to lower academic

achievement levels as well as higher uses of substances (Sontag-Padilla et al., 2016).

To address the impacts mental health has on student success some states have

committed themselves to expansions of mental health services on college campuses. For

example, the California Mental Health Services Act prompted counties in California to

work with the California Mental Health Services Authority in order to develop initiatives

to improve mental health at the University of California (UCs), California State

University (CSUs) and California Community Colleges. This created a push to increase

programs, resources and services on campuses (Sontag-Padilla et al., 2016).

Programs, Initiatives and Services

While conducting site visits at SCU, UCSC, and Cabrillo College, I learned about

the various practices that promote student success through wellness and mental health

initiatives. At SCU, Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) Training is offered to all

campus community members, such as faculty, staff and students. This training helps

provide people with education on how to support students in distress and crises. Dr.

Jeanne Rosenberger, the Vice Provost of Student Life and Dean of Student Services at

SCU stated QPR training also educates people on the steps to provide support to students

experiencing thoughts about suicide (J. Rosenberger, personal communication, August 8,


In the upcoming academic year, SCU hopes to create a QPR training for all

incoming first-year students. The training provides space for people to talk about mental

health and helps to destigmatize it. Similarly, education on mental health can allow others

to reflect on their own mental health. This training can greatly impact students’ success

on campus because it trains people to provide support to students in crisis and get them

connected to resources. Getting students connected to resources can promote their overall

success on campus (J. Rosenberger, personal communication, August 8, 2019).

An additional program that promotes student success is located at the Cabrillo

College Aptos campus. Their monthly programming around the eight dimensions of

wellness helps to promote student wellness and development through a holistic approach.

The eight dimensions the institution strives to educate students on are: intellectual,

environmental, financial, spiritual, social, physical, occupational and emotional wellness

(Personal Wellness, n.d.). Using the eight dimensions of wellness, the Student Health and

Counseling (SHC) center develop campus-wide programming each month (M. Donohue-

Mendoza, personal communication, July 30, 2019). Once a month, the SHC center

focuses on destigmatizing mental health through tabling across campus to educate

students about the different dimensions of wellness and how it impacts their overall well-

being (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal communication, July 30, 2019).

This information teaches students about their holistic wellness and ways to care

for themselves. Through monthly tabling, students are exposed to people who work

within the counseling center and can help proactively build relationships with counselors

in the SHC center. This exposure to mental health conversations normalizes the subject

and helps students feel more comfortable reaching out to counseling resources (M.

Donohue-Mendoza, personal communication, July 30, 2019).

Additionally, at UCSC an initiative that helps promote student success is

increasing peer support and educators on campus. The peer educators on campus help to

destigmatize conversations surrounding mental health, wellness, and resources on

campus (B. Arao, personal communication, July 26, 2019). Counseling and

Psychological Services (CAPS) employs peer educators to table various locations on

campus to bring awareness to services and mental health topics (M. Murphy, personal

communication, August 9, 2019). CAPS peer educators are also trained to host

workshops surrounding mindfulness and stress and anxiety management (M. Murphy,

personal communication, August 9, 2019).

Another department on UCSC’s campus that employs students to serve as peer

ambassadors is the Dean of Students. The peer ambassadors help destigmatize having

conversations surrounding hardship assistance, such as food and housing insecurity (B.

Arao, personal communication, July 26, 2019). Similarly, the Student Health and

Outreach Promotion office hires peer counselors and educators to increase students’

engagement with the resources on campus and help to destigmatize mental health

conversations (B. Arao, personal communication, July 26, 2019).

Lastly, Resident Assistants (RAs) serve as peer educators. Mike Yamauchi-

Gleason, Senior Director of College Student Life at UCSC, stated RAs hold programs

and conversations with residents surrounding wellness and mental health. RAs may also

bring people in from CAPS during their programs to engage students with campus

resources. This can help to enhance communication between residents, resources and

campus partners (M. Yamauchi-Gleason, personal communication, August 24, 2019).

When using student success as a lens, I think of the environment which helps to

promote it. At each institution, there were various practices that were in place to help

promote students’ success. Using the information collected from site-visits paired with a

review of literature, the following program to implement at Cabrillo College was created.

Proposed Program/Initiative

Among college students, community college students are less likely to seek

treatment for mental health concerns in comparison to students at UCs and CSUs

(Benson-Tilsen & Cheskis-Gold, 2017). In order to increase engagement with mental

health services and wellness education at Cabrillo Community College, I propose to

create the P.E.E.R (Prevention. Education. Engagement. Representation) Program. To

fund this program, I believe the institution should allocate some of the financial

assistance they received from the $90,000 grant the state of California provided to

increase mental health services on campus (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal

communication, July 30, 2019).

This program will allow students to become P.E.E.R. Leaders that engage the

campus community in conversations around mental health awareness and wellness on

campus. The primary focus of the program is to focus on the impact peers have on

destigmatizing mental health and increasing students’ engagement with mental health

resources (M. Murphy, personal communication, August 9, 2019). This program will be

overseen by the Dean of Student Services, since they sit on the CARE team which

discusses hundreds of student of concern cases each year (M. Donohue-Mendoza,

personal communication, July 30, 2019). Oversight by the Dean of Students and

partnership with the SHC center helps track mental health and wellness trends, since they

are both highly involved on the campus’ CARE team (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal

communication, July 30, 2019).


Additionally, the SHC center will provide education and training to the students

on campus who become P.E.E.R Leaders. They will educate them on the eight

dimensions of wellness, which already serve as a primary focus of the SHC center

programming and outreach efforts at Cabrillo College (M. Donohue-Mendoza, personal

communication, July 30, 2019). Other training by SHC center will prepare P.E.E.R

leaders to lead stress management workshops, which positively impacts mental health

and wellness of students (Hartley, 2011). Additionally, they can facilitate workshops for

peers on mindfulness meditation, which helps reduce stress and improve sleeping habits

of students (Benson-Tilsen & Cheskis-Gold, 2017). Since some students do not access

mental health resources for various reasons, P.E.E.R leaders can bring services and

workshops to students, such as in the classroom, in different on campus offices or spaces

to increase engagement (B. Arao, personal communication, July 26, 2019).

An integral component of the program, which will influence the services and

workshops offered, will be assessment. Campus wellness centers such as the SHC center,

can further address and meet student needs by surveying them directly and meeting with

student leaders to inform them of the campus community needs (Benson-Tilsen &

Cheskis-Gold, 2017). Using assessment as a cyclical process in the program will allow

the Dean of Student Services as well as the SHC center to learn more about students’

needs and interests on the topics of mental health and the eight dimensions of wellness.

They will also be able to use assessment to measure the effectiveness of the workshops

offered and adapt student services to meet the needs of the students (Kuh et al., 2015).

In alignment with SDA Learning Outcome #5, the P.E.E.R program can be

applied at different institutional contexts. To aid in adapting this student service to


specific environments, the utilization of evaluation and assessment will be key. Through

assessment and data collection a Health Center on a campus can gauge student issues and

needs, which is applicable to both SDA Learning Outcome #2 and #7. Similarly, this

program asks that a Health or Wellness center partners with the Dean of Student Services

on campus, or the professional who oversees student services. Institutions can collaborate

and partner with whomever this responsibility falls under on their campus, in order to

further develop services offered to students. With the framework of student success and

value of cura personalis, the program will provide a campus community with a holistic

approach to wellness.


Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive excellence can best be defined as a commitment to diversity in all

aspects of university life, whether it’s in the classroom, represented in student, staff,

faculty and institutional leaders’ demographics or, in services offered and available to

students on campus (Kuh et al., 2010). Inclusive excellence prompts the creation of

equitable opportunities on campus for the diverse student body to engage with. It also

encourages institutions and leaders on campus to utilize assessment as a tool to evaluate

what services are effective in meeting the needs of all students on campus, not just the

majority (Kuh, et al., 2015).

Inclusive excellence should not be a one-stop destination institutions reach and

say they have met their diversity, equity and inclusion requirement. Instead, it should be a

process of constant reflection on how current policies, programs, curriculum, and services

are inclusive, whose needs they are meeting, and how can they be adapted in order to

meet the diverse and ever-changing needs of their campus community. Inclusive

excellence not only asks whose voices are not at the table but, asks what ways the

institution can change that.

Meaningful Concepts & Lessons Learned

In addition to the enhancement of my personal understanding and knowledge of

inclusive excellence, there were three additional meaningful concepts that have impacted

my professional interests and future practice. One of the meaningful concepts is the role

holistic wellness plays in students’ success and development. Learning about how mental

health directly influences students academically, personally and professionally made me

realize how important it is to heighten awareness of mental health on college campuses

(Eisenberg et al., 2011). My site visits sparked my interest in pursuing an internship

within a wellness center on a college campus. This type of internship would allow me to

further enhance my understanding of the emerging issue of mental health on a college

campus. It would also provide the opportunity to enhance my abilities to adapt and

develop programming, services and outreach efforts in order to enhance students’

engagement with mental health and wellness resources on campus.

An additional meaningful concept that will be integrated into my current practice

will be the eight dimensions of wellness. The eight dimensions of wellness align with the

Jesuit value of cura personalis because of the emphasis on the holistic approach to caring

for the whole self and person (Personal wellness, n.d.). Using the knowledge on wellness,

I will create and develop training content for student leaders while serving on the

Development and Training committee within the department of Housing and Residential

Life (HRL) at Seattle University. This training content will focus on educating the

student staff on the different dimensions of wellness, how they can integrate it within

their personal life and role, as well as how wellness impacts our students in our

residential communities. As a student leader supervisor, I will engage my staff in

conversations around self-care using the eight dimensions of wellness as a lens. I will

also use this knowledge when providing support to the students of concerns I assist.

Additionally, a meaningful concept that developed throughout my site visit was

the impact cultural backgrounds had on help-seeking behaviors of students (A. Dahlberg,

personal communication, August 8, 2019). This made me reflect on how I approach

supporting students in distress and refer them to resources. This also made me reflect on

what resources campuses have to offer students who would like to pursue alternatives to

counseling when addressing mental health concerns. When serving on-call in my HRL

position, I provide crisis management support to our residents. When supporting students

experiencing mental health concerns or distress, I discuss resources with students for

additional support. Most often, on-campus support and assistance for mental health

concerns falls under CAPS and sometimes Campus Ministry. This prompted me to think

of how inclusive excellence shows up on college campuses when it comes to alternative

medicine and resources for students who do not find counseling to be culturally

acceptable. I am curious to learn more about how institution diversify their mental health

resources to support students from various cultural backgrounds.

Areas of Future Growth

Given all that was learned throughout a review of literature and during site-visits,

it was interesting to find that a handful of professionals did not mention how they

measure mental health program effectiveness and determine that it’s a promising practice

on campus. When asking some professionals, what led them to believe the program or

practice was effective on campus, they would refer to literature they read as a guide but,

did not mention how they utilize assessment in order to measure if the program was

successful within their institutional context. This led me to reflect on how assessments

role can be viewed differently depending on departments, professionals and within the

context of different institutions. I think assessment should be consistently conducted and

used to measure if the program on campus is meeting student needs and is addressing the

student issues the program intended to address.

In order to grow as a future practitioner, I hope to take the methodology of

assessment and put it practice within my upcoming year within the SDA program.

Through review of the course readings by Kuh et al. (2015), I gained foundational

knowledge on assessment and the role it plays in enhancing institutional effectiveness. I

also deepened my understanding of how assessment can allow practitioners to gauge

student needs and issues (Kuh et al, 2015). This upcoming year, I hope to assist in current

assessment processes that gauge residential needs within my role in Housing and

Residential life. This would provide me with more hands-on experience with assessment

and data collected.

Additionally, I will further develop in the SDA program and beyond through my

commitment to learning and taking on opportunities to increase my professional

competencies, such as assessment, evaluation and research. For example, In the

upcoming year, I hope to develop residential curriculum for the theme communities in

Campion Hall. The theme communities influence the programming offered to residents

living on the floors in order to educate them on the theme community topic. This past

year, I oversaw the Mind, Body, Wellness theme community. Through various meetings

with students on the floor, I learned that some students living on the floor did not

understand what the Mind, Body and Wellness theme community entailed and how

wellness directly influenced them.

Additionally, students’ preference what theme communities they hope to live in, I

see this as an opportunity to engage students in their topics of interest. For example, on

the Mind, Body, Wellness floor I can create learning outcomes for students who live in

the theme community and develop ways to educate students on the topic, such as through

programming put on within the residential community. Through assessment, I will be

able to gauge if learning occurred while living on the theme community floor and if the

programs put on, enhanced students understanding of wellness. The assessment tool

would inform if programming models and focuses needed to be adjusted to enhance

learning. I share this information as an example that highlights my reflection and

commitment to finding ways to enhance my professional competencies.

Throughout my role, I recognize that I serve as an agent of care for the students I

work with on campus. My value of caring for the whole person sparks my passion to

learn more about the impacts mental health and wellness have on students’ personal and

professional development. Through continued research, I will enhance my understanding

of the emerging and rising issue of mental health on college campuses. Staying informed

on the topic, will allow me to reflect on how I can best support the students I serve and

advocate for additional services to meet their needs.



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