Message from the Office of the President: PRISMH Introduction and Call For Participants

February 19, 2021

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

The need to address and support student mental health is critically important, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have made important progress in this effort, including new investments in mental health resources and shifting services online, and we continue to identify the ways we can help students flourish now and in the future. We are committed to deepening this work and ensuring its sustainability.

I am pleased to announce the University’s first systemwide effort to bring additional focus to this topic: the President’s Initiative for Student Mental Health (PRISMH).

PRISMH will be grounded in a public health approach and will include several focus areas to make certain every student has the mental health resources they need to thrive:

  • Research into the prevention and underlying causes of mental illness, as well as interventions and treatment;
  • Outreach across the state, as well as collaboration with Minnesota State, Tribal colleges and private colleges and universities in Minnesota; and
  • The establishment of new services on our campuses, alongside the improvement of existing programs, policies, and academic practices, including training and awareness programs for students, faculty, and staff.

Initially, the PRISMH committee will review existing and needed resources and will recommend and launch pilot initiatives to support identified objectives. They will report frequently on progress. I envision this work taking place over the next 1-3 years, after which, the established PRISMH program will be housed within the Office for Student Affairs on the Twin Cities campus and will be coordinated with our student affairs system leaders.

I would like to thank Tabitha Grier-Reed, Ph.D., L.P., Professor, College of Education and Human Development, and Maggie Towle, Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Office for Student Affairs, for agreeing to lead this work. Our next step is to identify and recommend standing PRISMH committee members, as well as subject matter experts and thought leaders who will provide important and diverse perspectives. We are looking for broad representation among students, faculty, clinicians, and staff to serve. If you are interested in being a part of this committee, either as a standing member or subject matter advisor, please fill out this brief application by March 19 to be considered.

I also invite you to learn about some of the work already underway in our University community, including materials from the October Mental Health Summit for higher education leaders and partners, hosted in partnership with Minnesota State, and our podcast Top of Mind: Promoting Mental Health at the University of Minnesota. The most recent episode features students on the Twin Cities campus sharing how the COVID-19 pandemic and the events of 2020 have affected their well-being. It also looks at what a couple of colleges and departments have been doing to improve the landscape for student mental health.

The importance of this work is apparent and I am grateful to our students for their effective advocacy. But the onset of this pandemic and other current pressures on our students bring a new level of urgency to our need to address this public health crisis with thoughtful and empathetic solutions. Please watch the new PRISMH website for updates and resources, and thank you in advance for your attention to this critical issue.

Be healthy, safe, well, and warm.

With warmest regards,
Joan Gabel