The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Norris Health Center is expanding its mental health resources to address an ever-growing population of college students seeking counseling and psychiatry to improve their quality of life.
New programs include “Lets Talk,” an informal, drop-in therapy session designed for on-the-go students to vent for twenty minutes. These sessions take place outside of the clinic itself, in designated classrooms and residence halls across campus. In addition, the recently adopted “Campus Connect” program has been training faculty, staff and student leaders to recognize the signs of suicide among their peers and approach the person directly.
Over 1000 UWM students use Norris’ free mental health services annually, particularly around peak times of stress – midterms and finals. Norris has been adding a new mental health staff member approximately once every couple of years, nearly doubling in size in the past decade. The clinic has just expanded to include a new counselor and part-time psychiatrist, with hopes of reducing the time it takes to make an appointment.
“The idea is to maximize every hour that staff are able to work directly with our students,” said Counseling Director of the Norris Health Center Dr. Paul Dupont.
Crisis counseling for emergent situations is available five days a week on a walk-in basis. As of 2014, the institute has also physically expanded to the Northwest Quadrant to allow for more trainees to help with the counseling practice and to ensure that all students can get access to therapy if desired.
In 2010, the UW System conducted a survey of mental health resources across all UW, producing a set of best practices and recommendations for action. They found that students at UWM showed significantly higher benefits from counseling than the system average, including improved daily functioning and academic performance. A high 78% of students stated that counseling helped them stay in school when they were previously considering dropping out. Based on this data, UWM was one of a handful of institutions awarded a $300,000 federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant. This will be matched by the university to work toward developing a separate mental health website specifically for UWM students, to hire a number of students to coordinate social support groups for certain at-risk demographics, and to continue to expansion of training programs.
College students are susceptible to mental health concerns for a number of reasons.
“Of all different types of mental illnesses,” Dupont said, “many have their onset in the late teenage years and early twenties. So the age range itself is a factor.”
Depression and anxiety, substance abuse issues, eating disorders, and suicidal ideations/attempts all occur at much higher rates among college students than the general population.
To learn more about the services offered at the Norris Helath Center or to schedule an appointment, visit https://www4.uwm.edu/norris/mental_health/index.cfm or call the Norris Health Center at (414) 229-4716.