Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Support the Whole Student: A Proactive Approach to the Mental Health of College Students

The mental health and well-being of college students has been a top trending topic for years, with students, faculty, staff, and families asking the same question of their college administrators: “What are you doing to support our student’s mental health?” The health- and wellness-focused departments within the Division of Student Life use a proactive approach to helping students deal with the stress and anxiety that can come along with being a college student.

“What are you doing to support our student’s mental health?”

Through partnerships between Student Life departments across campus, the Center for Health Education and Wellness, RecSports, the Student Health Center, the Center for Care and Resilience, and the Student Counseling Center work together to offer support services for students. Aside from the traditional services provided by the Student Counseling Center, each well-being office leads new initiatives and partnerships in order to support a student’s whole self from a mental health perspective.

UT Achieves JED Campus Alumni Status
UT recently received alumni status from JED Campus, a nonprofit organization that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults. The university partnered with JED Campus in the spring of 2018 in order to identify important areas of action for the university to support mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention efforts.

Some of the 14 areas for action include supporting life skills education to help students cope with the stress of university life; providing training to campus community members to identify, reach out to, and refer students at risk; and implementing means restriction activities on campus.

The Healthy Minds study is an annual web-based survey study examining mental health, service utilization, and related issues among undergraduate and graduate students.

Based on the review of pre- and post-survey data, a greater percentage of students are reaching out to campus professionals for mental health support, including clinicians, faculty, and academic personnel, and to informal supports, such as family.

More students report feeling confident in helping someone with a mental health problem and a greater percentage agree that students are working to promote mental health on campus.

Proactive Partnerships
Collaborations help departments offer unique and engaging programs that reach students in every corner of campus. The partnerships allow for more inclusion in events and for students to form more connections, leading to a better experience during their time at UT. Student Life’s wellness department staff continues to create and strengthen partnerships across the division and campus to help students before they experience a mental health challenge.

The Center for Health Education and Wellness, the Student Counseling Center, RecSports, and several other departments within the university hosted Fresh Check Day, a mental health promotion and suicide prevention event that visits colleges around the nation to encourage and engage students in a dialogue about mental health.

All health- and wellness-related offices within Student Life, and many offices and student organizations outside of Student Life, participate in Wellness Wednesdays programs, weekly events crafted to support the needs of current students, whether that means disconnecting for relaxation and reflection or learning how to manage stressful situations such as finals or graduation. Past programs have included meditation practices, yoga, group walks, wellness fairs, and a harvest market.

Students at a relaxation activity

The staff in the Center for Care and Resilience, established in the summer of 2022 to oversee 974-HELP referrals, work diligently to create partnerships with offices within Student Life and beyond. The main role of the office is to help students connect with helpful campus and community resources and build plans that support self-advocacy and growth.

Creating and nurturing strong partnerships with each other is how these offices stay on top of the health of our campus, especially the mental health of our students. These offices consistently find new ways to work together to support each other and collaborate for events, programming, and training.

Screenings at the Student Health Center
The staff in the Student Health Center provide depression and anxiety screenings when students have appointments with the center, specifically the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2). This two-question screening gauges a student’s mental state as it relates to depression. The PHQ-2 questions are assigned points, zero to three, and then added together to provide a total score, ranging from zero to six. If a person is above a total score of three, they are then screened using Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) to gauge the severity of the depression.

Image of the entrance to the Student Health Center

These scores allow Student Health Center staff to see a fuller picture of the student’s health, in addition to the main reason for the visit. Based on the scores of the student’s PHQ-2 and PHQ-9, the Student Health Center is able to help connect students to campus resources such as the Student Counseling Center or the Center for Care and Resilience.

Training for the Campus Community
Several health offices within Student Life offer training sessions on different topics that the campus community can request. These sessions dive deeper into information about a variety of health topics, signs to look for in students, and how people outside of the wellness offices can help students.

The Center for Health Education and Wellness offers a Welcome to Mental Wellness program that serves as an introduction to general mental health education. This 50-minute, student-facing program incorporates the science behind mental health, coping mechanisms, techniques, and resources. Additionally, the Center for Health Education and Wellness hosts many resources for students on managing stress and warning signs of an overloaded student.

Picture of the Vols Help Vols tent at an event

The Student Counseling Center staff also presents lectures, workshops, and programs to groups, organizations, or classes on a wide variety of mental health topics. One of the presentations available is QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer. QPR is a nationally-acclaimed program that helps students, staff, and faculty understand the warning signs of students in distress and how to effectively intervene. Other topics include conflict resolution, signs and treatment of depression, dealing with anger, and many others.

Students, faculty, and staff members are encouraged to refer students who may be in distress or could benefit from extra support to the Center for Care and Resilience either by calling 865-974-HELP (4357) or completing a referral form online.

During regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.), 974-HELP calls are answered by a member of the Center for Care and Resilience team. After hours and on weekends and holidays, calls are answered by a mental health professional who will connect callers to appropriate/immediate resources and provide a referral to the Care and Resilience team to follow up on the next business day.