Health & Wellness

  1. Mental Health 

 

Mental health of students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has been an ongoing issue for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this issue. The 2022 Minnesota Safe Learning Survey revealed that mental health is consistently one of the biggest challenges that students face. Approximately 50% of students chose mental health assistance as one of the top three most challenging things during the Fall semester. Furthermore, mental health disparities disproportionately impact students from vulnerable communities such as BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and many others. We need to collaborate with students and administration such as SVP Frans, President Gabel, Board of Regents, etc. Additionally, we need to consult with existing centers such as Boynton, Student Counseling Services, Aurora Center, Disability Resource Center, and the President’s Initiative for Student Mental Health (PRISMH) in order to provide more funding, accessibility, and increased mental health awareness for all students at both the university and legislative levels to achieve the following goals: 

a. Expand Telehealth options indefinitely for counseling

  • At the beginning of the pandemic, Governor Walz issued HF 19 Article 4: Telemedicine, which expanded telehealth services to individuals residing in Minnesota. However, this legislation expired in June 2021, therefore, we aim to collaborate with the state legislature to remove the termination clause and pass it through the Minnesota House & Senate.

    • ​Given the unpredictability of this pandemic, telehealth options provide a more flexible and accessible option for students. This could also encourage more students to seek professional help.

  • Additionally, we aim to collaborate with the University’s graduate student governments, the Council of Graduate Students (COGS) & the Professional Student Government (PSG), to implement in-house mental health services staffed by graduate students.

    • ​The graduate psychology program at James Madison University was awarded $1.6 million to support graduate students as they delivered counseling and psychological services in rural communities. This program was deemed successful in addressing the increasing rise of mental health needs of the community.

b. Increased funding for more culturally-specific counseling/mental services

  • An ongoing concern that several undergraduate students have expressed is the lack of diversity amongst mental health providers. Specifically, underserved students from the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and the neurodivergent community have expressed that the current counseling services offered through the University do not provide sufficient resources for their specific needs. Thus, we aim to collaborate with President Gabel, Provost Croson, and the Board of Regents to allocate more funding for the hiring of more culturally specific and trauma-informed mental health providers.

  • We also aim to work with the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC), to advocate for increasing the number of free counseling sessions available to students and to be involved in the hiring process of mental health providers.

  • We also aim to collaborate with University counseling services to ensure that counselors are taking into account the intersectionality of our students’ cultures and identities in order to make students feel safe and supported during their sessions.

  • Additionally, we aim to work with the existing counseling services to develop an app that would provide mental health services 24/7 to students and consolidate information about mental health resources.

c. We aim to Work with legislators and UMN administration to create and implement a local version of Illinois’ high school Wellness Days Legislation to provide 5 mental health days throughout the year without a doctor’s note for UMN students.

  • Similar legislation has been passed in Utah and Oregon, among other states, that allow students 5 excusable mental health days in a 3-month period. Implementing this law at the collegiate level as well will set a much-needed precedent for prioritizing student mental health and taking big steps towards reducing stigma around mental health.

d. Construct a comprehensive website that compiles university-wide mental health resources available to students

    2. Sexual Assault Advocacy 

Over the past several years, MSA has taken various strides to address sexual assault on campus, which can be exemplified through the passage of the Medical Amnesty Bill, providing students with emergency contraceptives at the Union, and initiating the process of compiling sexual assault advocacy and prevention resources into one comprehensive website. However, sexual violence continues to be a pervasive issue on campus. According to the Association of American Universities (AAU) Report on the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, 25.6% of undergraduate women have experienced non-consensual sexual contact since entering the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Additionally, the report found that 18.7% of all students from the Twin Cities campus have experienced harassment while enrolled, with 38.3% of students experiencing harassing behavior as well.7  It is also important to recognize that sexual violence disproportionately affects the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ community, and students with disabilities. These communities already face greater barriers to accessing information and resources. These barriers coupled with the numerous other disparities these vulnerable communities grapple with leads to not only allowing perpetrators to get away with their wrongful actions but also furthers the silencing and stigmatization of victim-survivors. 

Thus, we strive to work with University leadership, Boynton, the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct (PIPSM), and the Aurora Center to create a more inclusive space for sexual assault survivors under Title IX. Simultaneously, we aim to abandon the singular narrative of sexual violence, which has predominately focused on the experiences of cisgender white women, to uplift and empower the voices historically excluded from this conversation. We will utilize a community-based approach to address sexual assault as it is our collective fiduciary duty to not only challenge societal and historical norms around violence against women and educate the community but also ensure that individuals are equipped with the necessary knowledge and resources to make safe and informed decisions. We hope to achieve this by advocating for the following:

  • Increase funding for the Aurora Center to provide students with the necessary resources to address, understand and prevent sexual assault on campus

  • Continue to work with state legislators to implement the Safe Transfer Bill, which places a notation on a student’s transcript if the student is suspended or expelled due to sexual misconduct

  • Create a centralized website that lists all of the resources on campus to support victim-survivors and also goes over the reporting process

  • Implement mandated sexual assault reporting in Greek Life organizations

  • Collaborate with PIPSM, local, and state legislators to expedite the processing period for rape kits and to eliminate the 10-year statute of limitations on sex crimes

  • Implement a Survivor’s Fund, similar to that of the University of Cincinnati,  to allocate a portion of the budget to help lift the financial burden of victim-survivors such as counseling costs, medical bills, transportation, housing assistance, cell phone replacements, food assistance, etc.

  • Continue conversations with Housing and Residential Life to expand Sexual Assault Prevention Training to CAs

  • Continue to work with Boynton to modify the Sexual Assault Prevention Module (Everfi)

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