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AnneMoss Rogers interviews Cynthia Ellison, Ph.D., LPC, ACS, LMHP, ED, Executive Director of the Virginia State University Trojan Health & Wellness Center in this Q&A style webinar.

If you want to see the questions and pick and choose which parts you want to hear, go to YouTube and the “chapters” are laid out.

  1. Visit the video here
  2. Click the description and you’ll see the time stamps next to the questions
  3. Click the time stamps (the numbers like 28:30) and it will go to the Question and then the answer.

About VSU’s model:

Virginia State University has hired the University’s first fully licensed staff of five mental health counselors. In addition, VSU has hired new Health and Wellness administrators, expanded psychiatric and tele-health services, and added new initiatives to “reach students where they are.” 

Virginia State University has successfully trained more than 70 employees on campus as Mental Health First Aid Responders. Their role is to increase awareness, intervention, and responsiveness. In addition, VSU offers “Chatting with Counseling,” a non-traditional counseling service provided inside residence halls. The University also provides “pop-up” counseling clinics in recreational student spaces. Group treatment sessions are also being used for specific populations like student athletes and students with accommodation needs. 

Thie VSU approach to care is theoretically based upon the Ecological Model of Wellness which is endorsed by the American College Health Association and focuses on individual and community factors that shape wellness. 

Listen as Dr. Ellison walks us through how she implemented this vision, from getting stakeholder buy-in, engaging students, staff, and faculty, involving the community, planning events that actually get attended, and tracking the data to support ongoing efforts and future growth.

If you click on the time stamp at the beginning it will take you to YouTube for that answer.

Or you can use the recording above and simply scroll to that time stamp on the video for the answer.

00:00 Introduction

01:33 In a day and age where so many leaders take a “check the box” approach to mental health, how you have gotten leadership for the buy-in and involvement to do what you’ve been able to do?

04:33 I think a really, really important point to get across is that you take it to them. You’re not saying “Come to the counseling office, we’re going to have a group.” You go to them. Tell us what that looks like.

06:52 Tell us what your wellness program looks like right now. The high-level details. You mentioned a lot of activities. Tell me what that looks like and how they’ve responded. Tell me about the stinkers – the things you’ve tried that have bombed. (this year was the first time students have been the highest referring population (prior years were faculty and staff).

Freshman welcome week spent 2.5 hours focused on mental health. While freshmen are always the largest population to utilize services, this year it is more so and they’re bringing peers)

10:58 Do you have any way to track that data?

12:06 You don’t have a giant budget. You’re not a very big university. How did you get all this funded? (discussion of campus activities including expression of love henna tattoos)

13:00 Oh, I really love that. What was their reaction to that?

13:34 Okay, so your LGBTQIA+ group has been successful. Love on arms and tattoos. What other activities have worked if the group isn’t a thing? You talked about going in and teaching coping strategies. How open are they to learning those? And how long are they willing to stay to learn those?

15:40 So, you mentioned earlier the massage. And then I want you to tell us what those nap pods are. How did you find people? I mean, what does that look like?

17:50 So, did you rent one first or did you buy it? How did you buy a nap pod?

23:23 So, you mentioned international students. About how many of your population are international students? (discussion of how to honor diverse representations of faith and spirituality w/o religion)

25:22 I’m curious about the massage. Do you do it in a room? Where do you get the massage therapists? How many are there? Do people wait in line? Do they sign up? The logistics of that. Paint me a picture.

28:13 So that paint and sip have also been successful?

29:54 Okay, so you’re being vulnerable?

31:04 That’s my next question because we know that compassion fatigue is real. I can tell you it’s real. What are some other highlights and examples of showing care for staff and letting them know and be a part of all that you’re doing?

34:19 Do you think it’s harder for them? Because I think the young people seem to be more used to talking about this subject. But it seems like for some of the adults it may be a little bit more difficult. Can you speak on that for a minute?

36:17 I was at Vincennes University in Indiana…and they brought up the same point you did. That a lot of faculty and staff are reaching out to them and saying “Do you see us?” If you brought in someone separate, how do you see that working? What are your thoughts on that? (VSU has an EAP for faculty and staff; however, are finding that users would prefer services to be more accessible, on campus.)

38:38 Back to the students. How did you initially promote this event? And tell me what was kind of a stinker in terms of promotion? And what kind of things worked? In terms of getting bodies interested, getting people at the walk. That kind of thing. (How to market to target demographic, involve campus clubs, and organizations, and piggyback off existing events. Use student experts to market to their peers.)

42:12 What about food? I mean, usually, food attracts college students.

45:49 Do you have any kind of program – or do you think you’ll have any programs – where the students are telling their stories?

47:49 I need to back up for a second. So I wanted to know a little bit what is after-hours crisis support. What is that? What will that look like?

50:05 I’m curious how you get the students to speak up. Do you have them write it out on index cards? Or do they just speak up?

52:15 Can you kind of give us a basic overview of the steps of sort of starting a wellness program? There is so much to think about – what is step 1, 2, and 3 to get something going?

56:00 How do you collect the data?

58:14 Dr. Ellison’s final thoughts

See AnneMoss’s mental health speaker topics for schools and universities