HMHI and University of Utah Address Rising Mental Health Concerns Among Students

January 26, 2021

Today, the University of Utah and Huntsman Mental Health Institute launched the Mental Health First Responders program, a mental health crisis team dedicated to responding to mental health emergencies on campus. The highly trained team is made up of certified mental health clinicians and specialists with expertise in de-escalating situations and assessing students’ individual mental health needs. The program was launched due to the growing number of students living on campus needing mental health crisis support after hours.

“College students are prone to stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness,” said Lauren Weitzman, Ph.D., director of U of U’s Counseling Center. “The strain of living away from home for the first time, forming new friendships, and worrying about completing classwork can feel overwhelming. Supporting our students’ growing mental health needs is an ongoing priority—it is crucial to their learning and success in college and the productivity of our future workforce.”

According to a recent Counseling Center report, University of Utah students experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and academic distress than their nationwide peers. Last year, there was a significant increase in the number of students seeking counseling services and a 32 percent increase in the number of counseling sessions provided. Students who report mental health struggles are nearly twice as likely to drop out of school than their peers.

In addition to providing after-hours crisis care, the program works to prevent mental health crises by providing long-term therapeutic services, group therapy, and emotional well-being workshops. The program develops personalized referrals and ongoing care based on the students’ individual needs. The goal is to eliminate the number of students going to the emergency room to receive mental health treatment, offer a safe and compassionate way to help those in crisis, and prevent violent and traumatic encounters. This year, the program is available to all students living on campus and will extend to off-campus enrolled students in the future.

The Mental Health First Responders program is a collaborative partnership between Huntsman Mental Health Institute, University of Utah Counseling Center, and University Housing and Residential Education. U of U students living on campus can access the Mental Health First Responders team by calling 385-321-5356. Students can also contact the University of Utah Counseling Center (for enrolled University of Utah students only) at 801-581-6826.For additional free and confidential crisis support, download the SafeUT Crisis Chat and Tip Line app or call the Utah Crisis Line at 801-587-3000.