Texas Tech Launches New Online Program to Help Faculty and Staff Help Students with Mental Health Issues

Texas Tech University becomes one of the first universities in the country to launch a new online program offering faculty and staff a resource to help them better identify and respond to student mental health issues.

Texas Tech University becomes one of the first universities in the country to launch a new online program offering faculty and staff a resource to help them better identify and respond to student mental health issues.

Called MentalHealthEdu, the online program helps faculty and staff to learn about the increasing number of mental health issues on college campuses and the leading causes of distress in students. The program, which debuts in February at Texas Tech, is customized to the university’s specifications. It is overseen by the university’s Student Wellness Center staff and the Division of Student Affairs. The program also is available to faculty and staff at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

"We know that there is a quickly growing segment of our student population that has mental health issues and have been addressing mental issue resources since 2004," said Jan Childress, associate vice president for student affairs. "But after the tragedy at Virginia Tech last year, it was obvious that we needed to do more to communicate to our faculty and staff what they can do to assist students who have problems and exactly what resources are available at Texas Tech."

MentalHealthEdu is a password protected program that is divided into three interactive modules. The first offers an overview of mental health issues and college students. The second helps the participant identify warning signs of distress in students. The third section deals with approaching and referring students for help and provides interactive exercises to help participants work through real-life situations. The online program also gives links to the appropriate services available at Texas Tech so that all of the resources are available in one place.

"We want faculty and staff to be comfortable reaching out to a student they think is in distress," said Eileen Nathan, director of the Student Counseling Center. "I’m not suggesting that all our faculty and staff become psychologists. Often just knowing when a student needs to talk is a huge help. The point is to help people recognize when a student is under stress and have the information and confidence to approach the student and refer him or her for the appropriate help."

Evelyn McPherson, managing director of Student Health Services points to an increase in mental health issues on college campuses in this decade. National statistics show that in 2000, about 7 percent of college students were on some sort of mental health medication, including antidepressants or anxiety medication. Today that number has jumped to 25 percent.

"Of course, part of that jump is the increasing availability of mental health drugs," said McPherson. "But it also means that more students are seeking help and may need help. I know that faculty and staff may be nervous about what to do. MentalHealthEdu will help with those fears. The course also goes into privacy issues and will alleviate any concerns that exist that we can approach and refer a student without violating privacy laws."

MentalHealthEdu is created by Outside The Classroom, a national company specializing in college health. Texas Tech has used the company’s AlcoholEdu online program for three years as a tool to help students understand the dangers and health hazards of excessive drinking.

AlcoholEdu was the nation’s first online alcohol prevention program and is used by more than 500 colleges and universities nationwide. The program challenges students’ expectations around alcohol while enabling them to make healthier and safer decisions.

For more information about Outside The Classroom and its programs, visit their Web site at www.outsidetheclassroom.com.

CONTACT: Jan Childress, Texas Tech associate vice president for student affairs, (806) 742-2691 or via email at jan.childress@ttu.edu.