Trinity University’s Student Government Association is making history in the name of mental wellness.
After a unanimous vote of support on Wednesday, August 23, SGA is committing $100,000 toward a new mental wellness initiative for Trinity students. This investment is the largest single-sum commitment ever made by Trinity’s student government organization. With the vote of agreement, the initiative officially kicks off on September 1.
“On behalf of SGA, I am so excited to be a part of a historic initiative that truly impacts students for the better,” says Danny Nguyen ’24, SGA president. “In our 101-year history, SGA has served as the stewards of student interests and student success, and we are proud to support the livelihood of students at Trinity.”
President Beasley speaks to SGA members and meeting guests about the new mental wellness initiative.
Initiated through SGA by President Vanessa B. Beasley, Ph.D., this mental wellness initiative brings together the President's Office, SGA, and Integrated Counseling, Health and Wellness Services in an effort to truly impact student mental wellness and demonstrate a campus-wide commitment to improving student mental wellness. Guided by Marlaina Widmann, coordinator of Student Wellness, and Dr. Marcy Youngdahl, campus physician and director of Integrated Counseling, Health and Wellness Services, the initiative will launch its pilot program this fall with three primary goals:
- Improve mental wellness accessibility to reach underserved students
- Increase mental health support services
- Develop routes for rapid feedback to gauge wellness needs and guide services
Most importantly? There WILL be more puppies on campus.
“Student needs vary when seeking mental wellness support at Trinity,” Widmann says. The mental wellness initiative, she explains, is designed to help students who are seeking wellness support in more ways than just one-on-one counseling. “Our goal is to reach students where they are, and in a variety of ways, to ensure each student has access to the kinds of support they need. A stepped care approach to mental wellness allows Trinity to dedicate more resources to the steps before counseling services or other professional care, such as self-care and self-help information; peer support; stress, sleep, and lifestyle management; … and, of course, puppies!”
Students pet a therapy dog in Coates Library before final exam week.
Dog therapy is a proven method for supporting a person’s mental wellness through attention and comfort, often providing a therapeutic benefit to those who currently face mental stressors. And it’s just one of the eight primary components of the new mental wellness initiative:
- Expanded programming and outreach, including the growth of Mental Health Awareness Week
- Increased workshop facilitation around topics such as holistic wellness, mindfulness, and setting boundaries
- New dog therapy program comprised of TU faculty and staff dog teams to serve the campus community
- Training for faculty and staff addressing mental health in the classroom and in on-campus student work environments
- MANUAL, an evidence-based service to decrease gender gap in seeking care
- TigerConnect, a program to increase connections and reduce loneliness
- Student Wellness Advisory Board comprised of student representatives across campus
- LGBTQIA+ Focus Group to seek student input and address health disparities
These components were created to address specific Trinity student needs that aligned with the findings from Integrated Counseling, Health and Wellness Services Spring 2023 implementation of the American College Health Association - National College Health Assessment survey. More than 50% of students sought mental health services in the past year, and for more than half of students, the UCLA loneliness scale illustrated a need for more peer-to-peer connection and support. More than 75% of students reported moderate or high stress, and just under 60% reported distress in the past year due to academics.
Dr. Marcy Youngdahl (left) and Marlaina Widmann explain aspects of the new mental wellness initiative to SGA members and meeting guests.
“Without a doubt, there is a sincere need for this initiative in our student community,” Widmann says. “We’re ready to face our students’ mental wellness needs head-on, and we are excited to do so in partnership with many of our other campus resources.” The mental wellness initiative will work in tandem with the University’s student chapters of It’s On Us, a national organization focused on sexual violence prevention; Active Minds, a mental health support organization for college campuses; and The Hidden Opponent, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness for student-athlete mental health and addresses the stigma surrounding mental health in sports culture.
The initiative will also work side-by-side with existing athletics and fraternity and sorority life prevention programs. “These programs are intended to not only move the needle on current students’ experiences by developing their skills and cultivating a campus climate that promotes wellness,” Widmann adds, “but will also build skills and awareness related to mental wellness for life after Trinity”.
“We are extraordinarily proud of SGA and all of the students, staff, and faculty who rallied to support this important initiative. Taking care of our mental health is vital to student success in the classroom and the health of the entire Trinity community.” says Andrew Wells, Ph.D., vice president for Student Affairs. “Plus, Olive and I are looking forward to meeting even more new furry friends!”